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Make a Wish Foundation

The Power of a Wish

By: Amber Benders

This past August, Zach celebrated his 11th Birthday. It was a big deal as over the past 11 years there have been times where his parents were unsure if he would be with them.

Like most sick kids, Zach has done it all – life support, feeding tubes, countless tests and procedures, medications and long hospital stays. What makes him unique in the world of sick kids is that he is the only documented person in the world with his medical condition. Zach has a nucleotide substitution in exon 7 of the CASR receptor gene.

With all the hardships and struggles, visiting the hospital once a week and traveling every six months to the only place Zach can receive treatment (the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland), Zach’s family was in need of a reprieve.

Tanis, Zach’s mom, referred her son to Make-A-Wish® Northern Alberta, who in turn worked with Zach’s treating physician to ensure he was eligible for a wish – meaning that he had a life-threatening medical condition. One month later Zach was making his wish to swim with a bottle nosed dolphin.

Wishes are more than just a nice thing

Zach and his family found out wishes are more than just a nice thing. And they are far more than gifts, or singular events in time. When wish kids are granted a wish, the experience improves the quality of life for them and their entire family.

“How do you put into words the feeling of seeing your sick child, who you were told would never live, be pulled though the water by a beautiful bottle nosed dolphin?” Tanis explained. “Where do you begin to express the joy and excitement your child has when they realize that their wish has just come true? How do you convey what hope looks like on a child’s face?”

A wish improves a child’s state of mind, replacing fear with happiness and helping them feel like normal kids again. Through their wish, kids feel less isolated and more empowered to take back control of their lives. And while wishes help the kids who get them, it helps their families, as well. Wishes repair and strengthen families through a return to normalcy; feelings of hope and optimism replace fear and stress.

“The time we spent together as a family was so precious,” said Tanis. “For a moment, it was as if Zach was fine and the stresses of life and the weight of his disease on our hearts were forgotten.”

The Impact of a Wish

According to the results of the 2011 Wish Impact Study that surveyed wish parents, health professionals, and volunteers, a wish come true empowers children with life-threatening medical conditions to fight harder against their illnesses.

Physicians and nurses see the vital role that a positive state of mind plays in a patient’s ability to fight illness, and they see the wish experience as a powerful force to improve the mental and emotional health of wish kids and their families alike. Health professionals say the wish experience is an important addition to medical treatment, and they observe their patients feel better and comply more readily with treatment protocols when they experience their wish come true. 

“Zach’s wish was to swim with a bottle nosed dolphin and it was amazing,” said Tanis. “In that moment, Zach and his dolphin, Jenny, bonded and it was beautiful!  He truly could have gotten back on the plane and flew home! He was beaming, giddy and utterly content. As he waded out of the water he told us ‘I will never, ever forget Jenny as long as I live’.”

Make-A-Wish relies on wish referrals from caring individuals to help them reach more kids with life-threatening medical conditions. To refer a child to Make-A-Wish Northern Alberta phone 780-444-9474 or visitwww.makeawishna.ca.

Amber Benders is the Communications Coordinator (aka: Princess of Creativity and Inspiration) for Make-A-Wish Northern Alberta. She has been helping to grant wishes for children in our community for over 3 years.

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