In 2006, 15-year-old Melissa thought she knew exactly what life had planned for her. In four years’ time, she saw herself sprinting across center field wearing a Division 1 soccer jersey. She imagined herself preparing to go to law school and was confident nothing could get in the way of accomplishing her goals. But what she never planned on happening was getting sick.
“As a 15-year-old you never really give any thought to something like this happening to you,” explained Melissa speaking to her own inability to understand the severity of her condition. In two weeks, Melissa progressed from a patient who would need a liver transplant in coming years, to being transported to Denver Children’s Hospital with a mere 3 percent of her liver functioning.
“Everything that could happen did,” described Melissa reflecting on her two liver transplants and their accompanying medical complications, “but the wish changed everything.”
For Melissa, the magic of Disney World was something she never outgrew. Beneath the wish was Melissa’s desire to spend time with her family absent from the worries her medical condition had brought each of them. Often reliving the experience, Melissa finds herself thinking back to a single moment.
“There is no New Year’s Eve like a Disney New Year’s Eve,” Melissa said laughing to herself. It was in the shadows of the castles and fireworks, Melissa saw her family as they were before she was sick, collectively happy. Looking on as her family danced and filled with laughter, Melissa knew the wish was not only her escape, but a reprieve the family needed.
Though the wish could not replace Melissa’s need for doctors and hospital stays, the wish provided her perspective; the means to look beyond the immediate and image the life she had waiting her.
“The wish experience was the start of ‘after’,” said Melissa crediting much of her body’s ability to overcome illness to positive thought, “there is no stronger form than human will.” With her mind focused on the future, Melissa was not limited by her medical condition, but rather inspired by it.
“I saw [hospitals] as a place people go to heal,” explained Melissa, “it was a call to action.” With this realization, Melissa left behind aspirations of becoming a lawyer and knew her life would be dedicated to helping others heal.
Today, nearly 10 years after her diagnosis, Melissa has a new plan. While applying to graduate schools and daydreaming of traveling abroad, Melissa is certain of only one thing.
“You can always have a plan, but that will change,” Melissa explained, “I needed this experience for these opportunities to happen.” And though receiving a wish was never a part of Melissa’s plan, it was an experience that forever changed her life for the better.