Getting to the Heart of A Wish

Elijah, 11 Life-threatening heart condition Wish: To go to Hawaii and learn how to surf

Elijah, 11
Life-threatening heart condition
Wish: To go to Hawaii and learn how to surf

by Janet Glavin and Caeli Vanderstuyf

“They felt so special during their trips and could momentarily forget their illnesses and replace it with the experiences of sheer joy!” – Charity Muhs, Hannah and Elijah’s mother

Hannah felt excitement as she boarded their plane heading to Orlando, Florida with her family. Her wish to go to Florida to swim with the dolphins was coming true!  In October of 2013, Hannah’s wish was granted by Make-A-Wish® Illinois. 

“This trip created great memories for Hannah which made her feel like a queen for a week,” said her mother, Charity Muhs.

Hannah, 10, and her brother Elijah, 11, were both diagnosed with life threatening heart conditions and both siblings were referred to Make-A-Wish by David P. Chan, M.D., Congenital Heart Center Medical Director at Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria.

When Elijah met with his wish granting volunteers, he expressed his love for swimming and how he wished to go surfing in Hawaii. This past September, his wish became a reality. A moment that Elijah will never forget was when he stepped into the ocean anxiously awaiting his first surf lesson! Three surf instructors taught him and his family how to get on the surfboard, when to stand up on the board, as well as how to properly balance while trying to catch a wave. 

The Congenital Heart Center Team at Children’s Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center is an important wish referral partner.

The Congenital Heart Center Team at Children’s Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center is an important wish referral partner.

“Elijah enjoyed his time in the water so much that he shed a few tears saying that he didn’t want his surf lesson to end” his mother commented. 

While in Hawaii, their family visited the Polynesian Culture Center and attended an authentic luau. Elijah and his family enjoyed many amazing performances including fire dances and thrilling tricks.  He was even made the center of attention on stage where he learned how to “Hula dance.” Charity Muhs says Hanna and Elijah’s wishes helped them gain a sense of feeling that something good came out of their heart conditions despite their struggles.

Make-A-Wish® is committed to the vision of granting the wish of every eligible child. We rely on wish referrals from caring individuals to help us reach more kids with life-threatening medical conditions every year and grant them a wish that changes lives, forever. The eligibility consideration process is initiated when a wish referral inquiry is submitted to the local chapter. A child with a life-threatening medical condition who has reached the age of 2½ and is younger than 18 at the time of referral is potentially eligible for a wish.

The Congenital Heart Center at Children’s Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center is an important referral source whose team understands the wish as a great partner with the medical treatment. Thanks to their referral efforts we are able to reach many children in Illinois diagnosed with life-threatening heart conditions like Hannah and Elijah. 

Hannah, 10 Life- threatening heart condition Wish: To go to Florida and swim with the dolphins 

Hannah, 10
Life- threatening heart condition
Wish: To go to Florida and swim with the dolphins 

“The kids are all uniformly excited before and ecstatic when they return from their MAW trip.  For that precious moment all illness is forgotten and we talk about the great experience and the memory of a lifetime.  They all thank us profusely,” said Dr. Chan. 

WHO CAN REFER A CHILD? Make-A-Wish accepts referrals from:

  • Children being treated for a life-threatening medical condition
  • Parents or legal guardians
  • Medical professionals (typically a doctor, nurse, social worker or child-life specialist)
  • Family members with detailed knowledge of the child's medical condition
  • Online referral link: http://wish.org/refer-a-child