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Make-A-Wish Brings Many Surprises to Physician Family

Nov 26, 2019 08:15AM ● By MED Magazine

Sanford sports medicine physician Verle Valentine, MD, and his wife Carrie thought they understood what the Make-A-Wish organization was all about. After all, they had been hearing about Make-A-Wish since their daughter Alexa (Lexi) - now 17 - was a preschooler. 

Lexi suffers from a chronic and complex autoimmune and autoinflammatory syndrome that affects her nerves and her ability to fight infection. Although it is not imminently life-threatening, it has sometimes been life-limiting, landing her in the hospital with infections on numerous occasions. 

“But if you look at her, you would not necessarily think this kid has some kind of chronic illness,” says Dr. Valentine. “She just looks like a normal kid.”

That was part of the reason the Valentines had always said “No” to the idea of Make-A-Wish granting a wish for their daughter. Like many people, they had the misconception that wishes were reserved for the terminally ill and for those with limited means.  

“We just kept telling them thanks but save this for families for whom it would be better suited,” says Carrie Valentine. 

“We thought, ‘She doesn’t have cancer, she isn’t going to die’,” adds Dr. Valentine. “And we are fortunate enough to be able to take her to Florida or anywhere else she wants to go. So this isn’t something she needs.”

But when Lexi was 14, a persistent social worker helped organize a wish for her anyway. Not only were the Valentines surprised to get the call and surprised that Lexi qualified for a wish, but they were also surprised by the wish itself. Lexi wanted to travel to Alaska to see wildlife. 

“We knew that she loved the outdoors and loved animals, but we did not realize this was something she really wanted to do,” says Dr. Valentine. 

Make-A-Wish organized land and sea tours for Lexi and her family, taking care to build in rest days and make concessions for Lexi’s physical needs. The Valentines say they saw their daughter blossom on the first family trip that was truly all about her. But the biggest surprise of all had little to do with the trip itself.

“One of our biggest takeaways from the whole experience was that, even though Lexi had been afforded a lot of opportunities, she wasn’t really dreaming. She wasn’t looking into the future,” says Carrie. “Make-A-Wish really drew out what she wanted and helped her and us begin to have more forward thinking. That was really special.”