For 12-year-old Hannah, faith was her one constant as she dealt with four open-heart surgeries to fix her critical heart condition.
That faith played an important part in her wish decision – to visit the Grotto of Massabielle and swim in waters reported to have healing powers.
Hannah’s first encounter with the healing water of the Grotto of Massabielle was a family affair.
“When I was younger, my grandma took a pilgrimage to Lourdes and brought back water for me, hoping it would help,” said Hannah, who was diagnosed with a condition at birth where vital arteries in her heart are crossed. “She brought the water out to me and I started crying… not because I was sad, but because I now have some of the healing water."
After having this special moment with her grandmother, Hannah considered going to Lourdes on a pilgrimage of her own, so she could personally experience the healing waters of the Grotto of Massabielle.
“When I was told by Make-A-Wish Arizona that I could have a wish, I remembered that I said if I ever get the chance, I’m going to swim in the water, so I can really feel better.”
The specific nature of the wish required months of planning, so she was totally surprised when she found out that she would be leaving for the Grotto of Massabielle that summer.
“My wish granters asked me to meet them at Dave and Buster’s just to hang out, but once we got there, they told me my wish was being granted,” she said. “I was just so excited and happy!”
“It was amazing because I knew how much this has meant to Hannah for so many years,” said her mom, Martha. “I know this is something that will stay with her the rest of her life.”
Hannah, along with her mother, father and brother, left for Lourdes full of hope and faith that this trip would be a turning point for Hannah in her medical journey.
Hannah followed the pilgrimage journey of holy places, starting in Fatima, Portugal before heading to Lourdes, France.
“There were these long stone walkways in front of the church and all around the chapel,” said Hannah. “You had to walk on your knees a long distance in front of the church, it hurt but once I did it, I was happy I did!”
In Lourdes, Hannah was blessed in the waters. When Hannah thinks back on it, it is hard for her to describe the emotional and spiritual effect of being at that sacred place – it was an epiphany moment in her faith.
“I was so excited and happy,” said Hannah. “I’m not one for words and there are literally no words. It was just amazing.”
“Since 2nd grade, Hannah believed that if she could get to Lourdes, it would heal her heart.” said her mother. “She is so passionate about this and to see how the idea of this had been sitting in her heart for so long and then she has the opportunity for it to come true, it was absolutely life-changing.”
The memory of Hannah’s wish will impact her and her family, forever.
“I hope my wish inspires others in situations like mine to find hope in their hearts, too,” Hannah said. While her condition currently is stable after she received an artificial pulmonary valve in her last surgery, Hannah knows her heart will need more work in the future. Yet, Hannah’s faith remains strong.
“I feel stronger physically and mentally. I know whatever the future has in store for me, I can get through it. I am not as afraid as I was. This experience has given me something that no words can really express. I will always be able to look back at this and remember to be hopeful and that my faith in God will carry me through anything and that Our Lady of Lourdes is always watching over me.”