However, Rocco has had to live through things most kids his age would never have to experience.
At the age of eight, Rocco’s parents were shocked when their son was diagnosed with a large brain bleed because of an arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, a condition where the blood vessels in the brain are tangled.
Mother Gloria Toniatti said although the family felt as though their lives had been turned upside down in the first few months after the diagnosis, in which Rocco spent his time in the intensive care unit, their son’s strength helped them get through it.
‘We felt hopeless; we just couldn’t believe this had happened to our perfectly healthy boy,’ she said.
‘Despite his diagnosis, Rocco has always remained positive towards everything in life. He is very determined and has a ‘never give up’ attitude.
‘Rocco now needs support standing and walking and needs artificial feeding through a tube, but his resilience and determined attitude gives our family strength.’
She said one of the things that helped the family was the Starlight Express Room at Princess Margaret Hospital run by the Starlight Children’s Foundation. The room gives children in hospital a chance to escape from the medicine, giving them some fun through computer games, movies, crafts and activities.
Ms Toniatti said although Rocco did not spend as much time in hospital as he used to, when he was he was often in the Starlight Express Room.
‘He loved hanging out with Captain Starlight and making film clips, dancing and exchanging jokes,’ she said.
‘Rocco had a Starlight wish and got to meet his tennis idol Roger Federer at the Australian Open in Melbourne.
‘We can’t imagine how hospital would have been had Starlight not had a presence.’
The Starlight Children’s Foundation recently celebrated fundraiser Starlight Day, which aims to raise money to help more than 40,000 seriously ill children through in-hospital programs. For more information or to donate, visit www.starlight.org.au.