Nathaniel, 12, was always a boy with lots of energy and interests. But after a diagnosis of Ewing Sarcoma, he kept to himself more than before and he would rarely speak to the other kids in the unit during treatments.
Yet, one technician, who also happened to be a Make-A-Wish Arizona volunteer, was able to break through Nathaniel’s shell.
“I was working in the infusion unit at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Nathaniel stood out to me because he was super introverted,” said Hannah Dal Pra, patient care technician and volunteer wish granter. “I started talking to him during treatments that could last anywhere from two to six hours, and he started to open up to me a little bit more each time.”
It was after a few treatments that Hannah saw Nathaniel’s name as a wish kid in need of a volunteer wish granter.
“Make-A-Wish shares a list of kids who have been approved for wishes but have not yet met with a volunteer to really determine what their one true wish might be,” said Hannah. “When I saw Nathaniel’s name on the list of kids, I thought it might be easier for him to talk to me because I was a familiar face. I had hopes of bringing him out of his shell in a new environment.”
It wasn’t long before Hannah, along with her co-wish granter, Amanda, met with Nathaniel and his family to talk about his wish. Nathaniel talked about visiting Universal Studios and Walt Disney World because he loves the movies. Plus, he was excited to go on all the roller coasters.
Lori, Nathaniel’s mother, really saw him start to come back to himself when he spoke of his upcoming wish experience.
“Life was torn apart with Nathaniel's diagnosis,” said Lori. “He went through 10 months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments and to think of spending an entire week worry-free felt like it added a bit of balance to our lives.”
Plus, now Nathaniel had something fun to talk about every time he saw Hannah in the hospital.
“It was great to see his excitement about his wish,” said Hannah. “We had a send-off party for him at Dave & Buster’s and he was so outgoing around his friends, it was a new side to Nathaniel I hadn’t seen before.”
“Being a medical professional, you see kids going through so many things that are out of their control. I originally became a volunteer because I wanted to help kids in a different way, and a wish gives them control to decide the things they want to do for a change,” Hannah said. “Nathaniel’s wish gave him hope to look forward to something that is certain; something he knew was going to happen.”
During his wish trip, Nathaniel experienced many things for the first time, like riding on an airplane, going on the thrill rides at Universal Studios and receiving total VIP treatment at Walt Disney World and Give Kids The World.
“We were treated like royalty the whole week,” said Lori. “Nathaniel’s wish was an experience that we would never be able to do on our own, and it was fun because it incorporated our whole family and his siblings of all ages.”
“We have a family of six and everyone made sacrifices for Nathaniel during his treatment, so the fact that we were going to share this experience together felt like it was a wish for all of us, too,” Lori continued.
Most importantly, Nathaniel’s wish was the opportunity for him to feel like a kid again. Since his wish, Nathaniel has finished treatment and he spends his time doing many of his favorite things like playing basketball and video games.
“Nathaniel’s wish made us all realize there is so much good in the world and we are forever grateful for this experience,” Lori said.