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Community celebrates young boy who received kidney

Mystic — A parade of cars and emergency vehicles with sirens and music blaring traveled Tuesday evening through a Mystic neighborhood to celebrate the return home of a young boy who earned the nickname "Superman."

With signs and messages saying “Welcome Home,” “We love you, Joey” and “#TeamJoey,” community members showed support and surprised a local family whose 3-year-old son, Joey Gomez, recently had a kidney transplant after being on dialysis.

“There’s nothing that stopped this kid,” said family friend Janis Krotsis, who organized the parade.

Joey's parents, Kristen Rossi Gomez and Mark Gomez, said that even as Joey experienced ailments and issues in his life, he still put a smile on his face.

“He’s the most amazing kid on the planet,” Kristen said. “I think everybody’s so in love with him and has been since before he was even born.”

Joey was born with a rare genetic disorder that affected his kidneys, his parents said. At 6 months old, he started chemotherapy, and two days before his first birthday he had a kidney removed and then started dialysis. A year later, he suffered a stroke and doctors decided the second kidney should be removed because it was causing issues with blood pressure and other functions.

Joey was active on the transplant list for more than a thousand days. Last year, the family got a phone call about a donor, but that kidney ended up going to someone else four hours before Joey’s surgery was scheduled to begin, his parents said.

He received the transplant on July 17 and returned home after two and a half weeks in the hospital, his parents said. He is doing well and can now experience activities and foods that he wasn’t able to enjoy before.

“He can go swimming," his father said. "He can go to the beach."

The family is thrilled that he finally found a kidney. He will continue with medical care and ultimately may need another kidney later down the road, Kristen said. His parents and siblings could be a match for him when he's older.

Krotsis organized the parade with friend Linda Macrino to celebrate that Joey received a kidney and show support for him and the entire Gomez family.

“They’re amazing,” Krotsis said.

Krotsis said Kristen, Joey’s mother, has been working at Latitude 41 restaurant and coaching cheerleading for the Groton Mystic Falcons Youth Football/Cheer League, and is always smiling and upbeat. Mark, Joey’s father, quit his job to stay home with Joey for dialysis and “did not miss a beat” in taking care of him. Joey’s older siblings, TJ and Elizabeth, also have been understanding.

Krotsis said she invited friends, first responders and the Groton Mystic Falcons Youth Football/Cheer League to join the parade and, though the family has never asked for anything, she arranged for a donation basket to help them.

Through it all, the family has continued to give back to the community, Krotsis said, and she wants them to know that the community is there for them.

“I just want them to know the community is behind them and that we see and we’ve seen everything that they’ve been through,” she said, “and I just want them to know: this is how much love and how much support you have.”

Kristen said the entire community has been supportive and it feels awesome to have Joey back home.

"We are so lucky to be his parents," she said. "We are really blessed."

k.drelich@theday.com

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