When you hear about Make-A-Wish, you think theme parks and big trips. You think about presents and sendoffs. You may think about cancer or illnesses that get better. This isn’t about those things, though.
It is about the story of my family. A family of four, fighting a disease that few have heard about. Our son had mitochondrial disease (mito), which robs the body of its ability to make and consume energy. A disease with no treatment and no cure.
Zachary was born July 2, 2007. He was perfect and amazing. When he was 2 years old, we found that he had mito. We spent time going to doctors and honestly living in the hospital. One of the doctors suggested that we try for Make-A-Wish. I thought “but Zach doesn’t have cancer” – I thought “Zach is only 3 years old.” But, Zachary was getting sicker and sicker and the doctors told us that we didn’t have much longer with Zach, so we decided to fill out the application and try for a wish.
We were thrilled when Zachary was accepted to have his wish granted by Make-A-Wish Georgia; however, he took a turn for the worse. The staff at Make-A-Wish Georgia came and visited in the ICU. They worked hard to make sure that Zach’s heartfelt wish was going to be granted. After a lot of conversation, we thought we figured out what he would like and they started working to grant his wish. His wish was to have a trip to the beach. Zachary loved water and he was so excited to have that experience. Sadly, mitochondrial disease took a toll on him and his love of water was stripped away. It was heartbreaking.
So, back to the drawing board we went.
After all of the trials and tribulations we had been through as a family, we decided that maybe a chance to just have some family time would be best for Zach and quite honestly, best for all us. We asked for Zachary’s wish to be a few days at Callaway Gardens and for a chance to do a few family attractions around Atlanta – places close enough to the hospital if we needed to get back, but far enough to be a family trip. There was no party, there was no send off, and there honestly wasn’t any fanfare. There wasn’t enough time for that. Things had to be done quickly and we all agreed the longer we waited, the less enjoyment Zach would get out of his wish.
It’s amazing how things happen exactly the way you need them to. Zachary’s wish brought our family joy at a time that we needed it the most. It brought Zachary strength and it brought our family some much needed hope. I watched my boys play like “normal” siblings. They jumped on beds, they played with glow sticks, and we had family meals playing I-spy. We ate cookies in bed and played games. We took the boys to see the butterflies and Zachary smiled like he never had before (especially when butterflies landed on his wheelchair). We listened to the boys lay in bed in the morning, talking and giggling. We were a family. We were happy.
Zachary couldn’t stay awake for our last meal on our trip – three days was all his body could take and he slept through that entire third day. His body was too weak to make it to the other attractions planned by Make-A-Wish Georgia. Shortly after that time, just two weeks shy of his fourth birthday on June 14, 2011; Zachary was blessed to go to heaven. He was no longer in pain and suffering. For Aden (Zach’s brother), his father and me … our pain had just started.
Today, we can look back at pictures and at the smiles and know that we were blessed with those three days.
We know that no matter what we thought we wanted; Make-A-Wish Georgia granted us what we NEEDED. And what we needed was time to be a family. Time to love one another without worrying about the world. Make-A-Wish Georgia granted us time that we wouldn’t have had otherwise and time that we look back on even now. They gave us memories that will last a lifetime.
When you support a wish, you support a family just like ours. When you support a wish, you support children just like Zachary. When you support a wish, you support parents just like Zach’s dad and me. You help everyone involved in that wish capture memories that otherwise might be overtaken with scary or painful memories. You turn sadness into joy. I am so grateful for our little wish. And while somedays, I am sad that we didn’t get the grand experience that many others do, I know that Zach’s wish was exactly what we needed.
Your support grants wishes that leave a lasting, positive impact for families like Jen’s. Please donate today to ensure that every eligible child receives a wish.