It is very rare for wish kid Arianna to get to play outside. Diagnosed with catastrophic epilepsy which can cause up to 2,500 seizures a day. Arianna has spent most of her five years inside, avoiding the sun, television, music and even some books.
“Everything can be a trigger for her, but most specifically we had problems with the sun and with noise,” said Whitney, Arianna’s mother. They were dealing with her diagnosis and taking all necessary precautions when a seizure put Arianna in the hospital, on life support for 42 days right around her fifth birthday.
“She had to relearn to walk and to talk, everything, and she still has limited mobility and speech. That’s when her neurologist suggested Make-A-Wish,” said Whitney.
Whitney was familiar with the positive work of Make-A-Wish within her daughter’s diagnosis community due to the many postings in her Facebook groups. However, she had no idea how much happiness it was going to provide to her daughter and to her family.
“I was a little terrified honestly, but she is turning 6 in March and I thought her wish could be something positive to focus on,” said Whitney. “It took us almost a year to work with her doctor and find the right medications to desensitize her to sun, and we have been working very carefully and very slowly on other things, like TV and books, so we thought it was time.”
Arianna’s wish granters came to visit and went over all kinds of possibilities based on her likes and responses.
“The wish granters came back with three ideas to share with Arianna because they know she loves animals and loves to be outside,” said Whitney. “One of those options was Nurtured by Nature.”
Nurtured by Nature is a California park dedicated to conservation and education through animal encounters. On the day of her wish, Arianna was treated like a VIP and had the opportunity to pet and interact with otters in a heated pool in addition to personal encounters with other animals.
Then she was asked her three favorite animals and the San Diego Zoo arranged to feature interactions with all three: elephant, lion and giraffe.
“They took us behind the scenes and told us we could help to feed the elephant,” said Whitney. “I thought we would feed it through the bars that the zookeepers use but they opened the doors to the enclosure and told us we could go in!”
“I had to hold Arianna back because she would have run straight for the elephant!” Whitney continued. “She was squealing and laughing and it was so amazing to see her having so much fun.”
Arianna also was treated to a tour of the park’s medical facility, where she saw one of their lions being treated in a cage.
“I really had to hold her back for that one – she kept saying ‘kitty cat’ and ‘me feed’ but we let the zookeeper do that one,” said Whitney.
The day ended with a giraffe encounter much like their morning with the elephant.
“The animals were all so in tune with her,” continued Whitney. “I have never seen her more excited than she was on her wish. The entire day at the zoo, she did so well – with no big seizures and just a few little ones. We were able to see the whole zoo without any incidents.”
“I keep using the word ‘magic’ when I describe her wish day because it truly was magical – every person we met was so helpful and kind, and everything was taken care of so my son, my mother and I could enjoy it as much as Arianna,” said Whitney. “I am so glad we had this experience – it was just what Arianna needed.”