About a month ago, you may have read or heard the story of a little girl whose father would not allow her to accept a trip to Disney World from the Make a Wish Foundation. I know it sounds crazy, but after reading more of the story, I understood where he was coming from. The little girl was in remission from her cancer for the past two years and he thought that a child who was sick or dying should be chosen instead. I wish I could have talked to that man. I would have told him that anything he could do to bring a smile to the face of his daughter would be worth it. I know, because Lauren was lucky enough to be given a trip to Disney World from the Make a Wish Foundation in Alabama. And though it didn’t make up for all the pain she went through to get it, I’ll never forget her smile.
The circumstances that put it all in motion began months before. One night in January of 1990, Lauren began to complain of pain in her chest. Both Tim and I were concerned, but didn’t really know what to do. Lauren complained of chest pain often, but it would go away and she would feel better. This was different. She cried and cried as Tim held her in his arms. After awhile, she fell asleep. The next day, she seemed to feel better and we thought no more of it.
I took Lauren for her yearly check-up with her cardiologist in Birmingham a few days before Easter in April. Tim wasn’t able to go, so I went with Lauren and Leah. We didn’t expect any big changes. She seemed to be feeling fine and looked forward to playing in the playroom at the hospital. The visit with the cardiologist usually consisted of having x-rays, an E.K.G., and an echocardiogram. Lauren never feared these visits because there were no shots, no IV’s, and no blood taken. And I never feared them either, but that changed.
After the tests, Lauren, Leah and I sat in the room waiting for the doctor to come in and talk. He brought the x-rays with him, and told the girls that they could go in a different room to play while he talked to me. He had never done that before, and when I saw her x-ray, I began to understand why. There was something on it that I had never seen before, so I asked, “What is that?” It was called a pseudo- aneurysm. Evidently, that night in January, Lauren’s homograft valve and conduit that carried blood to her lungs had burst apart and she had bled out into her chest cavity. She would have died that night back in January, but the scar tissue that she had from her previous surgeries had kept the blood contained in an area in her chest. Immediate surgery was necessary, and also extremely risky. I was told to go home, get things packed, and come back to the hospital on Monday.
I don’t know if it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it ranks right up there. I had to call and tell Tim, who was, of course, devastated that I had gone alone and had to bear such awful news by myself. I guess that part was not as hard as having to tell Lauren. We had been planning on taking the girls to Disney World in May as soon as school was out. Now, that would not be possible. Lauren’s chance of surviving the surgery was low, and even if she did, she would probably not live many more years.
God was good to us, however, and He answered prayers from all of the people who prayed for her. We were blessed to have Dr. Pacifico, the best of the best, perform the surgery and it was not only a great success, but he had been able to do some things for Lauren that he had not counted on.
Of course, we were thrilled, though the trip to Disney World was out of the question, or so we thought. As it turned out, the Make a Wish Foundation wanted to make Lauren’s wish come true. And, they did. So, even though she didn’t have cancer or a disease that would take her life, she was a little girl who had been through much more than I ever have and unlike the dad that wanted only a sick child to have a wish, I think it’s appropriate for those who have suffered and survived to have one, too.