Melissa de Leon shares ordeal raising her eldest son

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Jan 22 2022 01:37 PM

Melissa de Leon-Joseph with eldest son Renzo
Melissa de Leon-Joseph with eldest son Renzo

MANILA -- Every first born is always a big blessing to the family, especially the mom. 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, three days after her child birth, Joseph discovered that her son had a problem with his heart. The boy had TOF (Tetralogy of Fallot), a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart.

“It was so devastating at that time,” Joseph told ABS-CBN News. “It 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 Joseph. “I couldn’t understand what it was in the beginning,” she recalled. “It was so hard to comprehend what was happening to my son.”

Joseph was a recent guest in “Usapang Puso sa Puso,” a monthly forum of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA), where she shared the ordeal she went through with her son.

Hosted by Dr. Aurora Camponia, the forum had its recent iteration “Usapang Mommy sa Mommy,” with Joseph. The PHA is headed by Dr. Gilbert Vilela.

Thankfully, the Josephs had a very good doctor who helped them go through the journey with Renzo. “It was so difficult for me to go through all the ordeals that I had to go through with my son,” Joseph admitted.

“He was just so frail. Ang payat niya. His lips was pale and kind of turning blue whenever he would cry. 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 Joseph and her husband 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.

“I truly understand all the mothers who are going through that right now,” Joseph disclosed. “And even those who are going through it. Maybe they are going through a diagnosis their baby had.”

At 10 months old, Renzo had to go under the knife. “I had to stop working just to be able to care for him really well, the way I was asked by the doctors and taught by the doctors how to care for Renzo, with a hole in his heart,” Jacob shared. 

What was difficult for Joseph 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,” Joseph admitted. “Thank God, I have a wonderful husband who was very supportive. He went through every difficult phase in that disease with Renzo, with me.”

“It was just as difficult with my husband, what I was going through,” Joseph explained. “The mothers are caring for the child, but the father also went through the same difficulty.

“Along with my husband, we went through the journey together. With Renzo, we did a lot of prayers how we would get over that phase. It wasn’t easy, but thank God, we went through it well.”

Stressing a point, if a child needs to go through any treatment, Joseph believes a mother should be able to extend her energy and strength she can do so for her child.

“The baby needs to know you are always there, he is always taken cared of,” Joseph insisted. “Just make the baby feel you are there. I totally believe when Renzo went through his surgery, he felt the energy from the mother and the father.”

When the finances eventually became a major concern, Joseph did not hesitate to borrow money from other people just to cover the expenses.

“At that time, Ronnie and I had just gotten married and we didn’t have a big savings,” she disclosed. “Alam ko na kapag anak niyo ang may sakit, ipagkaka-utang niyo maging okay lang siya.”

That was exactly what Joseph and her husband went through. “We didn’t care in the beginning, We just needed to bring him to a doctor because he needed an operation right away.

“We had to borrow money. We just thought about it later on, how to pay all those debts after. But 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. Buti na lang my husband has a business that helped us go through our financial burden.”

Today, even after 29 years, Joseph cannot simply ignore the physicians in the Philippine Heart Center, who helped them go through their ordeal. “We were guided well by all the good doctors and I was so thankful for them,” she acknowledged.

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

The towering Renzo, who oozes with good looks, undoubtedly carries his showbiz pedigree. When he was younger, he appeared in a TV commercial with his mom.

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.

“There were a lot of offers for him to enter showbiz,” Joseph disclosed. “Those who see him kept telling me, ‘Melissa, pag-artistahin mo ang anak mo.’ But he was more exposed with his father doing business.

“Well, 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.”

Surprisingly, Renzo was lured to get into sports as he was growing up. “He was never told not to get into sports, just don’t be a super athlete,” the mom recalled. 

“When he was younger, we made him do any sport he was interested in. He started with football, but later on, he got very much into basketball up to now. He does boxing and is doing weights. We never restricted him to get into sports.”