When wish kid Natalie was a child, doctors told her mother she wouldn’t survive past the age of six. More than 10 years later, Natalie’s still proving her doctors wrong and celebrated her 16th birthday on her wish to visit Disneyland.
“She’s a fighter in every way,” said Natalie’s mother, Flor. “One word to describe her is fearless and she inspires me every day.”
Born with Down Syndrome, Natalie has been susceptible to heart problems her whole life. But her mother was unaware that Natalie had pulmonary hypertension, a heart condition affecting the lungs and blood vessels, until a trip to the emergency room when she was 2 years old.
“Natalie stopped breathing and we rushed her to the hospital where we found out she had pneumonia,” said Flor. That’s when we found out about the hypertension and that it isn’t operable so it makes her very fragile. Thankfully, Natalie is very resilient.”
Flor first heard about Make-A-Wish Arizona during one of Natalie’s stays at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
“It’s been very difficult as a mom to see Natalie go through all these trials and I was so happy to see that, in a way, something positive could come out of her condition,” Flor continued.
“Natalie is a huge Disney fan and her wish to meet the princesses at Disneyland was kind of like her own Cinderella story.”
Once they arrived in California, Flor surprised Natalie at the park entrance by covering her eyes.
“When she realized where we were, her eyes became so big then she looked at me and said she loves me in sign language,” she continued. “We’ve been to Disneyland before, but this time was so special because of everything Make-A-Wish Arizona did to add to her experience. To see her on her birthday, celebrating her life and her strength, is the most magical thing to watch as a mom.”
Natalie’s favorite movie is The Little Mermaid so she had to meet princess Ariel first.
“She loves the songs and anything that has to do with aquariums and marine animals, so the Disney cast members took us to a room where there was this beautiful light shining on Ariel. She turned around and held out her arms then Natalie hugged her so tight. It was such a sweet and tender moment.”
“I think Natalie sees a lot of herself in Ariel,” Flor continued. “While she may not speak, she loves to sing, dance and play just like everyone else and I think meeting her hero helped Natalie see beyond her physical limitations and I’m so proud of her for everything she’s overcome.”
The following days, Natalie met more characters and explored Disneyland and California Adventure parks.
“Meeting Ariel was definitely the most memorable but every other day was just as perfect,” said Flor, who also enjoyed visiting Knotts Berry Farm and Universal Studios on their trip.
Even after Natalie’s family returned home, the magic of her wish didn’t fade away.
“Natalie is more outgoing and open to new things from this experience,” said Flor. “She’s normally being poked and prodded by doctors a lot of the time, but everyone we met throughout her wish was so kind and accommodating and helped her realize so many people care about her.”
“I see so much excitement in her eyes every time the school bus pulls around the corner now and she gives me so much hope. Her wish brought us closer as a family and I am eternally grateful for this opportunity.”