It was October 2015. In Michigan, the leaves had begun to fall, the weather had cooled off and Halloween was just around the corner. Any other 4-year-old boy would be busy playing in the colorful leaves and looking forward to collecting candy and dressing up for Halloween, but for my son, Zach, it was a different story. October 2015 was the month Zach started experiencing severe ear infections and was hospitalized.
Zach’s ear infections wouldn’t seem to go away, and we started to get concerned. After multiple trips to the emergency room and to the pediatrician with no luck, my husband and I finally decided to take him to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. That trip to the hospital turned out to be a leaping pad to one of the most devastating days of my life.
It was one week after Zach had been discharged from the children’s hospital when I received the phone call. It was a doctor from the hospital calling to tell us that Zach’s bloodwork had come back and was extremely concerning. She wanted to meet with us immediately. Two days later, we were in her office having more blood work done; it was the day we were told that our son may have leukemia. It was the day our life would change as we knew it.
As the word ‘leukemia’ came out of the doctor’s mouth, my ears started ringing and it got hard to breathe. It’s difficult to put into exact words what that moment felt like, but it’s safe to say my husband and I were totally devastated. We cried, we begged God to make Zach better; we got angry, we wondered what we did wrong... we just wanted it all to not be true.
After that meeting, the tests began. Since they suspected Zach of having leukemia, the bone marrow test was first. Luckily, it came back negative and ruled out leukemia. Unfortunately, this left us with more questions than answers, so more tests were conducted.
Around December 2016, we finally got some answers. It had been over a year of uncertainty, filled with hospital trips, blood draws and platelet transfusions, and it felt relieving to finally have a diagnosis: an autoimmune disease.
It had been one of the worst years of our lives. My family had experienced so many bad days, it was hard to stay positive and hopeful. I was trying as hard as I could, but deep down I was so scared for my son.
As many people do when going through emotional situations, I sought some support. I found an autoimmune support group on Facebook and joined it. One day I was scrolling through and noticed a woman, who has a son with a similar condition to Zach, had posted about him being approved for Make-A-Wish®. I was intrigued, so I asked her about it and she told me to apply, so we did.
Once we submitted the application, we were introduced to Mark and Jon, the amazing volunteers who helped to plan Zach’s wish. Mark and Jon were one of the best parts about our Make-A-Wish experience. They listened to me vent when Zach was sick and celebrate when we would get a good count from the doctor. They helped my family through the whole process and were there to cheer up Zach in the months leading up to his wish.
Zach wished to go to LEGOLAND® and visit the San Diego Zoo in California. He has always loved playing with LEGOS® and is very passionate about animals. When he was asked what his one wish would be it was pretty easy for him to decide.
We left for California in 2017, and the whole experience was perfect. Zach’s wish gave us an opportunity to get away from it all and relax. We were able to experience things that we never have before including larger-than-life LEGO creations, seeing elephants for the first time at the San Diego Zoo (Zach’s favorite animal) and getting a private experience with dolphins at Sea World. We were able to focus on our family and enjoy each other instead of what Zach’s platelets were. It was pure bliss!
The past two years have been hectic, emotional and terrifying. We have had ups and downs. We have had to put on a happy face for Zach when deep down we were scared. Make-A-Wish Michigan gave us an escape when we so desperately needed it. They gave us a renewed sense of hope and some amazing memories that will last a lifetime. Seeing how happy the trip made my son helped us all forgot everything we have been through for a moment, and that’s something I cannot thank Make-A-Wish for enough!