So often when children with critical illnesses visit doctors, they hear about restrictions and things they should not do because of their diagnosis. Dr. Radhika Peddinti likes to disrupt that dynamic for her patients who are living with a critical illness.
“When we introduce Make-A-Wish to a patient and their family, it really changes the tone of the conversation,” Dr. Peddinti said.
Dr. Peddinti first learned about Make-A-Wish when she was an oncology fellow. Through the years of developing her expertise in sickle cell disease and several other areas of the hematology-oncology specialty, Dr. Peddinti, who works out of the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital and LaRabida Children’s Hospital, both in Chicago, continues to refer her patients with critical illnesses to Make-A-Wish.
“At first, some families are worried, because unfortunately the perception is that Make-A-Wish is only for children with terminal diagnosis,” she shared. Once she is able to explain the broader focus of the organization on children with critical illnesses, she feels that referring a child to Make-A-Wish is a way to strengthen the doctor/patient relationship.
“I find out so much more about my patients and their families that we didn’t know because we are relating in a slightly different way because of the wish,” she told us.
She says it’s not just about the ultimate wish of what they got or what they get to do, but it is the path and the anticipation of a wish that can help a child. Kids are more animated when they are talking about what their wish might be or about their wish experience. Even after the wish they can’t stop talking about it, which for her patients with sickle cell disease is important because they will often use these wonderful memories as part of the guided imagery technique of helping them manage their frequent pain crises.
Dr. Peddinti also feels that a wish experience builds confidence in a child. See has seen many patients try something new during their wish and that can then change how kids are taking care of themselves after the wish. Now that they have this new interest, she sees that this new focus can also help patients cope by giving them more reasons to follow medical advice.
“If you have hope and a positive outlook, it definitely changes outcomes.”
Every year in Illinois, nearly 1,200 children are diagnosed with a critical illness that would qualify them for a life-changing Make-A-Wish experience. However, only 60-percent of eligible kids are currently being referred. We’ve always known that hope is medicine and now there’s promising new research that hope makes a real difference. Refer children whose illnesses may qualify today so they can have an edge in coping with their illnesses.