Adrian Chafino will be remembered for 8 years of smiles and strength
“He taught everyone to never give up,” said Luis Chafino of his kindhearted, caring nephew, third-grader Adrian Chafino, who died suddenly last Wednesday, Nov. 28.
Despite the dysfunction that spina bifida ailments dealt him, 8-year-old Adrian embraced life with a smile and endeared himself to classmates, family, school staff and more.
When asked if he was OK, Adrian oftentimes said that he was. “Even when he was sick, he would never cry. He was very strong,” said his mom, Yarely Chafino. He endured several surgeries before he was a year old, and “he went through surgery like a champ,” his mom added.
He idolized Uncle Luis, a Holyoke High School junior. Yarely made sure that her young son had the opportunity to see his uncle wrestle at the state tournament last year and to attend home football games in which Luis was playing.
Adrian wanted to do everything Luis did and was a proud nephew on football game days, with Luis’ number “88” painted on his cheeks.
Adrian liked to watch World Wrestling Entertainment’s John Cena and would tell his family, “I have big muscles.”
When Luis arrived home from sports practice, Adrian would take off his shirt and pants, put up his fists, and ask his uncle, “Wanna fight me? OK, let’s go!” Yarely has a delightful video of a match featuring Adrian and his uncle.
Adrian had a special relationship with all members of his household and loved them dearly. In addition to his mom and uncle, he treasured time with his grandma, Carmen Chafino; his baby brother, Emilio Chafino, 9 months; and his brother, Joel Estrada, 10.
He enjoyed surprising his mom when she’d find selfies of Adrian on her cellphone. He’d also check the weather each morning, saying, “Let’s see what the weather is like today.”
He delighted in making his baby brother laugh and had a smile that could better anyone’s day, according to family and friends.
Yarely said her son was rather shy at school but definitely not at home. He had an extra-special connection with his paraprofessional aide, Johana Nevarez; with his resource teachers Nancy Miles and Sam Distefano; and with his BOCES physical therapy coordinator Kelly Durbin.
His mom said Adrian was so small that girls at school tried to carry him like a baby. She emphasized that he enjoyed playing with everyone, and she didn’t realize how many people he touched until hearing stories the last few days.
One young schoolmate wrote a precious note to the family, asking God to take care of and bless Adrian.
Adrian defied the odds and started walking at age 3
Yarely was living in Iowa when she was pregnant with Adrian. Before the birth, she knew her baby had spina bifida, and she was referred to the nearest large hospital, in Omaha, Nebraska, where Adrian was born Dec. 22, 2009.
Having lived in Holyoke prior to moving to Iowa, Yarely and her family returned to this community when Adrian was about 2, in 2011.
Yarely explained that there are three kinds of spina bifida, and Adrian’s was the most severe type, affecting the lower spine. His mobility was affected, and he had a neurogenic bladder (lacked bladder control).
Because of where Adrian’s spina bifida was located, doctors told Yarely that he would have no mobility. He proved them wrong, however, when he started walking when he was 3 years old.
He endured bladder issues as part of his health dilemmas and was catheterized at school every four hours. But his family was on top of the treatments required and helped keep him as comfortable as possible.
Yarely said Adrian had suffered a couple of bowel obstructions in previous years and had been airlifted to Children’s Hospital once before.
Community struggles with loss
Last week started with what seemed to be a common stomach bug, and Yarely kept Adrian home from school Monday, Nov. 26. Feeling better, he returned to school Tuesday.
However, that night, he was restless and not feeling well. The family is well-trained in knowing how to deal with Adrian’s bladder/bowel issues, and Wednesday seemed to be just another one of those days. In fact, Yarely had been sick with a stomach bug, so it seemed likely that Adrian had the same bug.
Luis said when he left for school that morning, Adrian said, “Have a good day at school. I love you.”
That morning, Yarely was in contact with Children’s Hospital about Adrian’s condition, and she made a doctor’s appointment locally. But when Adrian’s condition deteriorated quickly, he was rushed to Melissa Memorial Hospital to be transported to Denver.
Yarely said she had some hope when she was told that they found a pulse on her baby, who she said had gone into cardiac arrest.
Her sister, Izzy Chafino, of Westminster, was headed to the Denver hospital immediately, and Luis drove Yarely from Holyoke to be with Adrian.
The message that Adrian had not made it was a tragic one for his mother and uncle to receive when they arrived at Children’s Hospital.
“He was just a baby, he was my special boy — mi corazón, mi corazón (my darling, my sweetheart),” she sobbed as she shared the story.
Support staff consisting of school counselors, BOCES team members, local clergy and victims advocates were at Holyoke Elementary School the next day to help support any needs that students or staff had, noted Principal Andrea Kammer.
School was canceled in Holyoke School District Re-1J Tuesday, Dec. 4, the day of Adrian’s funeral, which was conducted at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
A void is certainly felt in Holyoke’s third-grade class.