Last November, my sister-in-law said she really wanted to submit Mia’s name to The Dream Factory. Having never heard of this organization, she explained what she knew about it. She proceeded to tell me that she could not submit Mia’s name. We, being Mia’s parents and due to HIPA laws, had to facilitate the process. Dave and I felt guilty accepting such a gift, even before knowing all the details. My sister-in-law, seeing our hesitation, said, “I think Mia really deserves it! I wish you would consider it.”
That night I thought about her words, “Mia really deserves it.” In our many stays at the hospital, Dave and I met kids as sick as Mia and those much sicker. How does Mia deserve it more than another one of those kids? Dave and I read the website again! The Dream Factory grants dreams to kids with chronic illness. Mia most certainly has chronic health needs. It is then that my mind began to shift.
Mia has been through so much. You would never know by meeting her today that by the time she was 13 months old, she had 6 surgeries, three of them brain surgeries, and one more surgery before she was 2. Mia was born with a head the size of an adult’s. When we took her home, the plates in her skull were still moving. We carried her around on a pillow for weeks because her head was so heavy and awkward, you couldn’t cradle it safely in the crux of your arm. Mia’s Early Intervention services began as soon as she came home from the hospital. She has worn helmets, Ankle-Foot Orthotics, used standers to stand, walkers to walk and most recently a scoliosis brace encompassing her torso, which she will wear 23 hours/day well into her teens. She has had a colostomy, been through numerous x-rays, CT scan, MRIs, and so much more.
It is with Mia’s hard work and the help of so many others, that she is standing here today. We were told she had less than a 50% chance to leave the hospital. If she did, she probably would never stand, walk or talk. Mia didn’t stand or walk within the normal time frame. But at age two we rejoiced as she took her first steps.
As these thoughts went through my head, I agreed with my sister-in-law. Mia did deserve this. She has defied all odds. She has pushed every day with schedules that include doctor appointments, medical procedures, physical therapy, occupational therapy and even everyday tasks we take for granted, such as holding up her heavy head. I know there are kids who push just as hard and harder and I hope they too can have their dream granted.
What the Dream Factory gave our family is a gift unimaginable! It has touched us in such a way that no words can express our deep gratitude and emotions. It has left us changed and more humble. When two wonderful volunteers came to our house, I could feel the roof beginning to pop as Nicolas and Samantha’s excitement grew with each new detail of what the trip would include. I had to remind them that this meeting did not mean we were definitely going.
See, it was just as much a gift for myself, Dave, Nicolas, Samantha and Gabriella as it was for Mia. When a child is sick, as you can imagine, we all live it. Mia’s siblings worry when she is in the hospital. They have spent hours helping Mia during her recoveries, going to doctor’s appointments and participating in her therapy sessions. We, as a family, have lived through Mia’s many lows and celebrated her many highs. As a twin, Gabriella has had to take a back seat and is too little to understand why and that she is just as important. In fact, on the trip she asked, “Mom, why does Mia get her dream and I don’t get mine?” I had to try my best to explain why and that we were all getting this dream!
Give Kids the World was a place like no other. Really an unimaginable fairytale that unfolded before our eyes! Not only did Mia’s dream come true, it was the first family vacation we had complete with plane rides, meals made and served and unending fun! It is a place where kids are more than kids, they are kings, princes, princess, pirates and idols. From the daily toy fairy, winter wonderland with Santa, horseback riding, magical pillow tree to the adventures of the theme parks, there was not a day that went by that we, as parents, took for granted the smiles, laughs and pure joy of our family. It truly was a vacation of a lifetime.
Most importantly, our angel finally got a moment for herself, a moment in life that was without fear, without pain, without work. I only wish you could have seen Mia’s reaction as she met Cinderella. It was everything we had hoped for and more. Upon entering the covered garage at Universal, Mia disappointingly asked, “Are we at the doctor’s office?” My heart aches to know that this has become part of Mia’s normal life yet that day my heart rejoiced to be able to say “No Mia, we are not at the doctors. We are on vacation, remember?” That vacation allowed all of us to take a break, forget and enjoy each day. For this, there is no thanks big enough. The memories we have taken away truly are priceless! That moment in time, as well as many others, including Gabriella’s dream of meeting Ariel, will live in our hearts always.
So thank you, Dream Factory, for all that you have done for us and continue to do for families like ours. You do make a difference. You do make this world a better place. You did make all of our dreams come true!!!