By David SedenoThe Texas Catholic
Marcos Saldaña, his mother Julie by his side, entered the chapel at Bishop Lynch Catholic High School on April 13 and knelt down to pray.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven …” he said, his prayer audible to a few standing nearby. Finishing that, his fingers and his hands still interlocked tightly, he closed his eyes and recited a “Hail Mary”. Mother and son then thanked God for this lucky day.
Marcos, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, received a double lung transplant on Jan. 7 after more than three months in the hospital. On April 12, he left his hospital room and his first wish was to surprise his former classmates from St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School who were attending Bishop Lynch and who he had not seen in months.
“God, thank you for this day and for allowing me to be back with my friends,” Marcos said. “I am so happy to be here.”
A few yards away, the freshmen who had attended St. Thomas Aquinas were being assembled in a coordinated group-photo ploy arranged by Bishop Lynch parents, teachers and administrators.
As several photographers and videographers posed the students in the bleachers for the photo, Marcos entered the gym.
“Hey guys!” he said, waving and chuckling as he walked toward them.
His friends were in shock, their eyes and mouths in animated shapes and sizes depicting the “surprise” that had been pulled on them. And as Marcos walked closer to them, continuing to chuckle, they jumped out of the bleachers and rushed like a pack toward him.
“Can we touch you?” said one.
“You look great, Marcos!” said another.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” another said.
And Marcos seemed to bask in every second of it, including sitting in the middle of his friends for the group photo and sitting and talking with many of them during the three lunch periods.
His mother watched from a “safe” distance and said that seeing her son’s anticipation and the surprise on the students’ faces was priceless.
She said that Marcos’ medical journey while at St. Thomas Aquinas had been rocky, but that teachers, students and parents embraced him and the family. They not only protected him from those who would tease him about the incessant cough associated with cystic fibrosis, but by becoming part of “Captain Marcos and his Pirates,” a team organized to walk annually to raise funds for research for a cure.
Marcos, who is enrolled in a Dallas public schools homebound program, struggled with the notion that someone’s life ended so that his could continue. So he has vowed to be positive, prayerful and thankful.
“Life means more to me now and I want to live it the best way that I can,” he said.