Grown-up ‘Wish Kids’ Look Back
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By Alex Strauss
For the first 9 years of her life, Lydia Sand of Sioux Falls and her family thought she was suffering from severe allergies. When she was finally diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, there was a measure of relief at finally having some answers.
“After I got on the right medications, there was a huge turnaround in how I was feeling,” she recalls.
But there was also the new challenge of learning to live with and manage this life-threatening genetic disease. She and her family had been dealing with that for about five years when, at a quarterly check-up, they were told that Lydia qualified for a “wish” from Make-A-Wish.
Make-A-Wish South Dakota is part of a national organization whose goal is to strengthen and empower children like Lydia by creating a bright spot of hope in their lives. From Disney World trips and puppies to shopping sprees and celebrity meet-ups, Make-A-Wish makes a new dream come true every 35 minutes. In South Dakota, that’s about 60 wishes a year at a per-wish cost of about $7,000.
Lydia didn’t have to think long to know what hers would be.
“My wish was to meet Jennifer Garner, who was starring in the TV show ‘Alias’ at the time,” says Sand. Garner’s gutsy character inspired the young Lydia to face the challenges of her condition with courage and tenacity and Alias was her favorite show. In 2005, the family flew from Sioux Falls to Hollywood where they watched the show’s filming from the set, and spent one-on-one time with Garner.
“This experience was the one time in my life, when I didn’t remember that I had CF,” says Sand who, at 25, is now a program manager at Children’s Scholarship Fund in Omaha. “I can’t recall medicine or treatment as part of the trip at all. I got to feel normal, but a special kind of normal. All the hardship and struggle was temporarily gone,”
While there is a lingering perception that all Wish Kids are terminally ill, Sand is an example of the 70 percent of children who go on to beat their illnesses. Scotland, South Dakota native Michael Kronaizl is another.
Kronaizl was diagnosed with a germinoma brain tumor at the age of 17 after he complained of double vision. In 2009, after successful treatment for his cancer, he his parents and brother travelled to Miami to watch the Saints and Colts compete in the Super Bowl. He’s now in his second year of chiropractic school in Minnesota.
“At first, I didn’t think I qualified, but I’m so glad I decided to do it,” says Michael. “For me, it was like a celebration that it was over. It was a great experience that I’ll remember forever.”
Medical professionals can refer a child to Make-A-Wish by visiting md.wish.org or calling Make-A-Wish South Dakota at 800-640-9198 or 605-335-8000.
To quality for a wish, a child must be between 2 and a half and 18 and facing a life-threatening medical condition. Common conditions among Wish Kids:
● Heart conditions
● Cystic fibrosis
● Organ transplants
● Duchenne muscular dystrophy
What does not qualify?
● Chronic medical conditions
● Mental/psychological disorders
● Neurobehavorial/developmental disorders
● Other non-life-threatening medical conditions