“Arturo, (known as “little Arthur” to everyone) grew up giving his very best, with tenacity, energy, vivacity, joy, sympathy... in short, caring in everything! [...] The first objective difficulties began when he put on the first prosthesis. For a child only a year old, it should not have been so easy to learn how to manage a foreign limb. For example, when he had to sit down and bend his knee, he had to unlock it by pulling on a string, a security mechanism that did not always respond quickly; but he, with patience, had made it into a game. Adapting to the prosthesis also required stressful weekly physiotherapy sessions. [...] All this has been our daily circuit [...]. In the succession of days, months, and years, the source of new energies needed to face problems and the unknown, paradoxically has always been him: Arturo. […] The expectations became moments of complicity, of play, gym, and every time, at the end of the day, a precious pearl. [...] Difficulty and joie de vivre cannot always be combined, but when I talk about Arturo, I often repeat: he is a blessing for our family and provides a lesson of life every day."
These are words spoken by Mrs. Gianna, the mother of Arturo Mariani, a 26 year old boy who lives in Guidonia (nearby Rome).
Arturo loves sports, has lots of friends, is interested in politics, and is very close to his family; as a child he preferred playing to reading; he made his older brothers mad with his mischief and at the same time admired and sought them out.
Arturo is a curious, determined young man, always open to new experiences, who loves to joke around and be in good company.
He has a basically peaceful, "normal" life, besides the fact that he is missing a leg.
In the autobiography he wrote himself, Born This Way. (Edizioni Croce, 2015, 109 pages). In his Diary of a young soccer player without a leg, the young man tells his story, from the discovery of the malformation in the womb, to his debut in the Italian National Soccer Amputees.
That "yes" to life that allowed him to be in the world
It's 1993. Mom Gianna and dad Stefano already have two children, when they discover they are expecting another child. They are so excited about this new baby, but during an ultrasound, the doctor notes something strange: Arturo does not seem to have a lower limb. They repeat the exam, in the hope that it was only the baby’s position that made it seem so. But it is not so. Arturo is really missing a leg.
Moments of bewilderment follow, doctors try to explain that in such a situation one is "protected by law 194" (law that decriminalized abortion in Italy) and one can "terminate the pregnancy," but Gianna does not even let them finish speaking.
The thought of aborting does not even enter the Marianis’ minds. The fact that Arturo does not have a leg does not change anything. He is there, and only asks to be loved, as he is. To help them, they hold fast in their great faith in Jesus Christ and an unlimited trust in Providence.
"Arturo will run his way"
Rumors about this family and slanderous talk swirl around this family’s decision to keep their child. Even among their closest friends, they get the questions: "But what will they do right?", "Won’t it just be a life full of suffering?", "Who knows how many ordeals he will have to go through..." Questions that Arturo has always answered with his tireless good mood, his perseverance in overcoming physical limits, his desire to grow, to play, to joke even being ironic about his missing leg which “without being there” created many problems. “So he can never walk? Will he not be able to run?” His brothers asked, a little hesitant, after knowing that the baby soon-to-be-born would be born without a leg.
"He will run his own way," his parents replied.
And it’s true! Arturo ran in his own way.
He ran so much that, with his prosthetic leg, he even went on to play soccer. To the delight of his mom and dad, he spent hours and hours on the terrace playing ball, even breaking some glass here and there.
A huge Roma team fan, he has always cultivated his passion for soccer with his dad Stefano and wound up playing in the Italian National Amputees team, even participating in the World Cup in Mexico in 2014.
Arturo is often a guest speaker in schools and at conferences, shedding light on the importance of integration: his life is a light for many children.
Being loved is the greatest gift
Arturo feels privileged, because his parents did not want to "exchange” their son - seeing that it did not correspond to their "ideal of normality" - but instead gave up their idea of normality, to adapt to the needs of the child.
In the book he tells about the large home his parents bought outside of Rome in order to give him more freedom to move. He goes on to explain much about the physical therapy the underwent, and how the mother had become so good at handling the prosthesis that she left the experts speechless. “The guest bedroom had become our workshop. My mother spent days trying to fix one point first, then another, then another. He got his hands on everything, sometimes the technicians themselves were amazed at the work he did, which even exceeded theirs,” he recalls.
The hours spent in traffic on the way to therapy had become precious time between him and his mother.
The young man also fondly remembers his grandmother Nella, who, until the last day of his life, made him understand that he was a true gift. She always said: "Arturino will do great things."
"The love she transmitted to me,” he writes, “is something that I still feel strongly today and continues to make me feel 'special' - as she saw me."
Arturo’s family and closest friends made the real difference. Arturo remembers gratefully the special travel companions he had over the years: peers who were able to understand his "fatigue" that he would experience in the movements, to adapt the moments of leisure to his needs.
The quality of life does not depend on how many limbs you have
"Poor thing, it will be a life of suffering, they brought him into the world out of selfishness..."; "They could have had an abortion, for his sake..."
Who knows if these people know about Arturo’s national team matches, about his commitment in the parish or in Caritas, about his travels; the episodes recorded on the Catholic radio founded by his family (Radio Giovani Arcobaleno), the joy he experiences with friends, the lovely times he shared with classmates and teachers at school.
I wonder if they know that Arturo is happy.
One also wonders about the concept of "selfishness" those who have to complain about Arturo's parents, that is, of a dad and a mom who put themselves at the complete service of their son, carrying with him all his crosses, making him feel precious, worthy of any care, through actions, even before words.
It is true that the condition of this boy is "special," different, complicated... but if you read his story, perhaps you will have to revise your concept of what a “quality life” really means.
You may have to admit that in life, "health is not everything."