Chris is your typical 24-year-old. He loves to hike, has a great girlfriend and is working hard toward a future as a police officer, training and applying at different city and county departments throughout Phoenix.
You’d never know that at the age of 4, he was diagnosed with a very rare, very serious condition that ultimately affected him until he was announced ‘in remission’ just one year ago.
“When I was like three or four, I was not feeling well—getting dizzy and having headaches, getting sick, having vision problems and doctors all over couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me,” said Chris. Days in the hospital turned into months until around the one-year mark, a pediatric neurologist from Barrows Neurological Institute diagnosed Chris with pseudotumor cerbri – a condition that allows an access of spinal fluid to build up around the spinal cord and brain.
“It was a rare diagnosis because my condition is more likely to be in women, especially women over 40,” said Chris. “In fact, I was the first child ever diagnosed with my condition in Arizona and I was only 4 years old.”
Chris continued to battle it out with his condition over two to three years of testing and long times in the hospital. He had multiple surgeries and often could be in the hospital for a month or more of recovery. He missed school and fun and rarely was able to hang out with other kids. He was starting to show signs of severe depression – not something you want to see in a 6-year-old – when his neurologist talked to his family about Make-A-Wish.
“I really didn’t know what to think but I knew they were saying that I could do something besides be in the hospital so I was very excited,” Chris said. “I wished to go to Disney World because 1) Lion King was my favorite movie and 2) I wanted to do something with my family.”
Chris had spent so much time in the hospital that he really didn’t know his baby sister, who was three at the time, and his parents were having to split all their time so he would never be alone. But even is his young years, he knew a vacation was not in the cards for his struggling family.
“I really wanted to go but I wasn’t sure how we would get there,” said Chris. “Make-A-Wish made my one true wish an experience that was great for everyone.” On the trip, Chris remembers how special he and his sister felt at Give Kids the World and in the park, even at SeaWorld, a special perk he wasn’t expecting but ended up really loving.
“I remember having a full day at the park and then we would return to our room and every night, there was a little gift for me and my sister. We were the first in line for all the rides and they were extra careful with me because I still had a shunt,” said Chris. “And, at SeaWorld, they took us behind the scenes and I was able to interact with a dolphin. But most of all, I remember us all being together. It’s a great memory.”
Yet, even with those great memories, Chris says that the one thing Make-A-Wish did for him was not even on his wish.
“A few years ago, my mom had some health issues and we were really thinking she would pass away and it started me thinking about my wish and how having people giving me hope and encouraging me to think positive made a huge difference in my healing,” said Chris. “My volunteers, my nurses, my doctor, everyone was so motivating – I wanted to get better for them, not just to go on my wish but because I knew they wanted me to go on my wish.”
Chris used those same tactics on his mother with strong results.
“I really thought ‘this is why God made me go through all that when I was young’ – I could understand her struggle and I could be her volunteers, her nurses, her support system and tell her to keep it up and concentrate on getting better,” said Chris. “Having a wish to think about had an effect on me then and helped me refocus my mom, having an effect on me today.”
His mom healed and so did Chris, who was told he was “100 percent cured” last year, except for a few migraine issues that will affect him for the rest of his life.
“My wish made a difference when I needed it most,” said Chris. “Even as young as I was, I know that my wish is one of the reasons I am here today.
“I say keep doing what you are doing because wishes make a difference. Wishes can make all the difference.”