16-year-old Eric loves cooking in his spare time and learning about history in his classes at school. For him, there was no better place to combine all of his favorite things than the destination known for its food and culture – the city of Paris.
“I’ve never been out of the country before and I knew that I wanted to travel for my wish,” said Eric. “Paris has so much of the history and amazing food I wanted to experience in one place, so that’s where I wished to go!”
Although Eric was excited to embark on his international trip, both he and his family were still coming to terms with the traumatic reason Eric qualified for a wish in the first place.
“One day, Eric started having pain in his back and it took us three weeks to realize something was wrong,” said his mom, Rocio. “As his pain grew worse, we took him to multiple doctors but they didn’t know what was happening.”
When Eric’s leg became very swollen, he was transferred to a Tucson hospital.
“We learned Eric had a bacterial infection that had taken over his entire system; so his heart was basically working 3X the normal rate,” said Rocio. “He stopped being able to walk and he couldn’t go to school. It was so bad that doctors told me if I had waited a day or two longer to get help, he may not be with us today.”
It took eight months for Eric’s infection to go away, and because it had spread to his heart, he also needed to undergo an open-heart surgery.
But Eric’s physical health was not the only thing that was affected.
“Eric had a hard time reintegrating back into his normal life,” said Rocio. “Once we left the hospital, he showed no interest in cooking or coming out of his room anymore. You could tell he was very down and he became depressed.”
During this time, a nurse mentioned Make-A-Wish Arizona to Eric’s mom and she decided to refer him for a wish.
“I would give anything to take it all back so Eric wouldn’t have to go through this illness, but his wish was a great thing for him to look forward to,” she said. “When he found out his wish was coming true, he couldn’t believe it!”
“We got a phone call and I thought she was joking,” said Eric. “Compared to where I’m from, Paris is so exciting and I was really happy to be able to travel there and experience everything. It felt like a new chapter of my life was starting.”
Soon, Eric and his family flew into France and visited all the landmarks and attractions he had hoped to see – like the Catacombs of Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and The Louvre.
“It was so much better seeing the Mona Lisa in person than on the internet!” said Eric, who has recently been learning more about artists and paintings. “I also tried some new French foods for the first time, like escargot!”
“The day we set foot on the Eiffel Tower, Eric was speechless for quite some time,” said Rocio. “I’m especially thankful because I see Eric so happy. I used to hear him say, ‘I hope I get well so I can go on my wish trip.’ And now that he did and his health is doing so well, I am just at a loss for words.”
One of Eric’s favorite experiences of his trip was his gourmet cooking class with a Parisian chef.
“He taught me how to make a three-course meal with an appetizer, entree and dessert,” he said. “The appetizer - with beets, cream cheese and balsamic vinegar layered like lasagna - was my favorite. I still make this recipe, and it makes me want to go back to Paris!”
After returning home, Rocio says she has noticed big changes in Eric since his wish.
“Eric had the time of his life in Paris,” she said. “His cooking class gave him a new spark of motivation and now he is excited about cooking again! This experience helped him so much and I will always be so grateful.”
“He came back a new person,” she continued. “This wish gave him his life back.”
Today, Eric is doing very well health wise and all his tests have been coming back normal. This semester, he’s also enrolled in a cooking class where, no surprise, he is getting straight A’s.
His mom attributes a lot of Eric’s success to his wish, and expressed her gratitude many times for how much it’s all meant to him.
“My heart is overjoyed. I will be forever grateful for what this experience has done for my son and my family,” she said. “Make-A-Wish Arizona gave us a beautiful trip that leaves us with renewed hope, Eric motivated and priceless memories engraved in our hearts! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!”