FORT LEE, N.J. — Raphael had no idea that police were going to visit him at home in Fort Lee Tuesday afternoon, but he was wearing a police hat and holding a pair of handcuffs when he answered the door.
The 5-year-old -- battling several different heart defects -- has always been an avid law enforcement supporter (scroll down for Raphael's story).
So when Fair Lawn PBA Local 67 President Luis Vazquez heard what Raphael was going through, he knew he had to help.
Vazquez organized a very special surprise, asking law enforcement agencies from around the world to send apparel to give to the ailing youngster.
Thanks to Vazquez and the help of his blue line brothers, Raphael now has dozens of police apparel to remind him that no matter what he's going through, his favorite heroes and biggest fans are always by his side.
"He goes for doctors appointments every week and his spirits drop," Vazquez said. "I hate to see a kid's spirits get low -- especially a 5-year-old as energetic as he is."
Vazquez heard about Raphael's situation earlier this winter through the owners of CJ Global in Fair Lawn, who know the family.
They asked the officer if he would be able to help in some way.
Vazquez brought the request to the Fair Lawn PBA executive board and Chief Glenn Cauwels, who he said did not hesitate to give him the green light.
It wasn't long before word traveled across the U.S. and the Atlantic Ocean -- thanks to the power of social media -- and the Fair Lawn Police Department's mailbox began filling up with donations.
"I thought it was remarkable that people from around the world took the time out to read what he's going through," Vazquez told Daily Voice.
"He's a pure innocent kid dealing with these things puts life into perspective."
Raphael and the officers bonded over pizza and rides in police cars outside.
Raphael was born with a congenital heart defect called "tetralogy of fallot." He had his first surgery when he was 2 months old. A few months later, he developed another heart condition called "mitral valve stenosis."
The doctors were very surprised because these two conditions are never seen together. They repaired the second condition when he was 11 months old but the condition came back and they tried to repair it a second time.
When it came back a third time, they decided to change his mitral valve for a biological valve which lasted him two years from age 3 to 5. This year in September, the valve started leaking so he needed a fifth surgery to replace the biological valve for a mechanical valve. He also developed pulmonary hypertension with all these complications which he needs to take a lot of meds daily.
Since they put the mechanical valve he was also started on blood thinners which involves him having regular bloodwork weekly.
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