"Life is tough but I never give up. I keep on going."

After bringing what the Panarese family thought was a healthy baby boy home, they soon realized that Christian Panarese had some complications. He was about six months old and cried 23 hours a day. After a visit to the pediatrician left Christians grandmother without answers, she sought the advice of a pediatric orthopedist that referred Christian to Children’s Specialized Hospital.


After being diagnosed with Hydrocephalus Quadriplegia (born without the entire right side of his brain), Christian began physical, orthopedic, speech and augmentative therapy at Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside. He also received rehab-tech services.


“When we started therapy at CSH, I was not happy and did not want to be there,” said Nancy. “However, we came to therapy for 15 years and in all those years we were always treated with respect, compassion and understanding.”


Christian always loved setting goals during his therapy sessions. He once had a goal to learn how to eat Doritos. He was in the Westfield School System and looked forward to one day eating lunch with his class. When Christian started therapy at CSH he could not sit up drink or hold a cup. As Christian progressed in therapy he was eventually able to eat, drink and hold a cup with his right hand.


Christian was unable to speak and often cried during his therapy sessions. His greatest success was at seven and a half years old when he spoke for the first time.


“My hope for Christian is that he will continue to grow and be happy now that he is in another phase of his life,” said Nancy.


Now age 22, Christian is no longer a patient at CSH but he uses the tools that he has learned every day. Christian relies on a wheelchair and has limited use of his left arm. Christian graduated from the Westfield school system where he studied graphic arts, business and cooking through the vocational program. 

Through the years Christian has also been involved in rock climbing, wheelchair racing, challenger baseball, soccer, swimming, martial arts and sled hockey.


“Christian is always smiling and happy, he has a wonderful outlook on life and always remains positive,” said Nancy “Our lives have recently changed dramatically, my husband passed away about a year and a half ago and then Covid-19 hit and we moved into an apartment. We have experienced lots of changes and through it all Christian has remained positive and has helped me get through it all.”


CSH practices family centered care. Nancy recalls being extremely angry when first coming to CSH and taking her frustrations out on staff. Through their patience and kindness they were able to teach her how to take care of Christian as well as address her needs. Nancy says that the kindness of CSH staff is a gift that she will always cherish. 


Now as a an employee of CSH for Family Centered Care for 15 years, Nancy and Christian are on the other end helping our staff and families navigate their own journey’s at CSH.


“My advice to other families is to take one day at a time. Don’t beat yourself up if everything is not perfect; just do what you can,” said Nancy. “Remember to smile. Have confidence that you and your child have landed in the best place that you can be and be secure in knowing the staff here at CSH will partner with you on this journey.”


Christian has had and continues to live a full life. He always says with his trademark smile, “Life is tough but I never give up. I keep on going.”