Melissa de Leon shares ordeal in raising son Renzo

Leah Salterio - The Philippine Star
Melissa de Leon shares ordeal in  raising son Renzo
Renzo, now 29 years old, with his mom Melissa.
STAR / File

When actress Melissa de Leon-Joseph gave birth to her eldest son, Renzo, 29 years ago, she was more than happy that she finally became a mom. However, her baby didn’t turn out to be a healthy boy from the onset.

“He was just so frail,” the mom said of her Renzo. “Ang payat niya. His lips were pale and always turning blue whenever he would cry.”

After three days, Melissa was told her son had a problem with his heart. The boy had TOF (Tetralogy of Fallot), a birth defect that affects the normal blood flow through the heart.

The Josephs: Rebecca, Melissa, Ronnie, Rigo and Renzo.
Photos by Melissa de Leon’s Instagram account

“It was so devastating at that time,” Melissa recalled. “He was my first baby. I was really looking forward to being a mother and taking care of a child. But at that time, I was told that my Renzo, our Renzo, had a heart problem.”

The situation became immediately difficult for Melissa and her husband, Ronnie Joseph. “I couldn’t understand what it was in the beginning,” she shared. “It was so hard to comprehend what was happening to my son.”

The actress was a recent guest in Usapang Puso sa Puso, a monthly forum of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA), that had its recent iteration to Usapang Mommy sa Mommy, with Melissa. The forum was hosted by Dr. Aurora Camponia. The PHA is headed by Dr. Gilbert Vilela.

Thankfully, the Josephs had a very good doctor who helped them journey with what they had to go through with Renzo. “It was so difficult for me to go through all the ordeals that I had to go through with my son,” Melissa admitted. “That was the time when we really had a good relationship with our doctor, a pediatrician and a heart doctor for children.”

The doctor helped Melissa and Ronnie go through Renzo’s problem with the heart. At that time, they were told that the baby needed to undergo an open-heart surgery at a certain age.

The mind-boggling ordeal happened when Renzo was 10 months old and he had to go under the knife. “I had to stop working just to be able to care for him really well,” Melissa offered. “The way I was asked by the doctors and taught by the doctors how to care for Renzo, with a hole in his heart. I truly understand all the mothers who are going through that right now.”

What was difficult for Melissa at that time was how to take care of a child like Renzo. How she would be able to face the difficulties or the things that she had to do. “Those were the things that entered my mind,” she disclosed. “Thank God, I have a wonderful husband who was very supportive. He went through every difficult phase in that disease with Renzo, with me.”

When the finances eventually became a major concern, Melissa did not hesitate to borrow money from other people just to cover their expenses. “At that time, Ronnie and I had just gotten married and we didn’t have a big savings,” she granted.

“Alam ko na kapag anak niyo ang may sakit, ipagkaka-utang niyo maging okay lang siya. We had to borrow money. We just thought about it later on, how to pay all those debts after.

“The Lord really helped us. It wasn’t as easy as you think it is. At that time, while we were going through it, napakahirap po. Nothing was cheap. It was also difficult to raise all that money. But thank God for all those who helped us at that time.”

The towering Renzo, who oozes with sex appeal and good looks, undoubtedly carries his showbiz pedigree. The boy is the grandson of late veteran actors Gil de Leon and Lilia Dizon, as well as the nephew of Christopher and Pinky de Leon. Renzo’s mom also acted on TV and the movies before she retired. When Renzo was younger, he appeared in a TV commercial with his mom.

“There were a lot of offers for Renzo to join showbiz,” Melissa said. “Those who saw him kept telling me, ‘Melissa, pag-artistahin mo ang anak mo.’ He sings very, very well. But he was honed more to become a businessman by his father. Very hands-on si Ronnie. My husband really wanted Renzo and the rest of our children — Rigo and Rebecca — to be in the business.”

After his surgery, Renzo lived a “normal life,” according to the mom. “All the challenges, all the success, I point them to the Lord,” Melissa stressed. “Renzo is well and good. I really believe the Lord has a good plan for him.”


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