Joseph Thomas Angiolino was born on April 6, 2009 at Princeton Hospital. Joey was our second born child behind his big brother Nicholas. They are only 15 months apart and we really looked forward to them growing up together.
On December 16, 2009, at 7 months of age, Joey was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called Hurler's Syndrome. The disease affects a specific enzyme that does not allow the body to break down long chains of sugar molecules. If untreated, Joey would become blind, deaf, mentally and physically handicapped and die by age 5. This was a very difficult diagnosis to accept, but we focused on what would give Joey the best shot at a "normal" life.
My wife Nicole and I explored our options, and our journey took us to Duke University Hospital in North Carolina where he would receive a chord blood transplant. We left Nicholas, family, friends and our teaching careers behind to try and save Joey. He went through several tests on a daily basis and began chemotherapy in late February. On March 3, 2010, Joey received a double chord blood transplant, and we hoped and prayed for a miracle.
He would be faced with infections, sickness, possibility of no cell growth and many other challenges along the way. Our motto became Motivation, Perseverance and Strength. MPS is the acronym for the medical term Mucopolysaccharidosis, that Joey suffered from. His determination and ability to smile every day gave us all of the strength we needed to get through this very difficult time.
On July 16, 2010, after a tremendous battle, Joey passed away in my wife's arms in the PICU of Duke Hospital. Throughout our journey we have remained positive, and we truly believe Joey served his purpose. It takes some people 60, 70, 80 years, and it only took him 15 months. The funeral service was filled to capacity with family, friends, faculty, students and many strangers that were touched by Joey's story.
In Italian, our last name, Angiolino, means "little angel." My wife and I started a non-profit organization called Joey's Little Angels. We have had great success. To date, we have donated over $100,000 to the Duke Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Family Support Program and other families who have a child seeking medical treatment.
During the holiday season, we have held toy drives and with the support of our volunteers consisting of mostly middle/high school students and we have donated over 12,000 toys nationwide. Our donations have been made to Duke University Hospital, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, RWJ New Brunswick, Capital Health, Boston Children's, Rutgers Cancer Institute, St. Christopher's Philadelphia, Cincinnati Children's Hospital and many more.
Since Joey passed away, we continue to march on and live life the best we can. Nicholas and Joey became big brothers on February 24, 2012 to a brother Matthew and sister Olivia. We know Joey is by his sister and brothers side at all times and making sure they are safe.
Joey's Little Angels is a small organization making BIG things happen! We are forever grateful to our family, friends, volunteers and supporters.