My brother Sam was born with a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left-Heart Syndrome, which means that part of the left side of his heart didn't develop completely. When Sam was only five weeks old he received a heart transplant which ultimately ended up saving his life and gave him a second chance to make his life nothing short of amazing.
Most of Sam’s life growing up consisted of going through countless surgeries, tests, and doctors’ appointments as well as encountering additional health challenges along the way. After his heart transplant, Sam had to take steroids in order to avoid rejection along with other medications he would be taking for the rest of his life.
I have seen Sam at some of his sickest moments, and I’ve seen him at some of his best moments. Something that always stays consistent is his positive attitude through all aspects of his life (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and his strong faith in God that everything will be okay. Through everything he’s endured, my brother has become more admirable in my eyes.
Sam's wish was granted in 2016 and the journey helped him put his medical conditions, and even life, into perspective a little bit more. It made him realize how many people are going through a similar situation that he's going through and it showed him that he has an opportunity to bring those individuals the same joy, hope, and support that Make-A-Wish Illinois brought to him and our family during his wish.
By going through the Make-A-Wish journey, Sam has become more compassionate, humble, and willing to talk about his conditions in order to help spread awareness and hopefully impact others’ lives in the process.
After Sam's wish was granted, our family definitely felt closer to one another and I think we all just had a fun time overall. We were truly humbled to be involved in such an amazing experience, and it made us want to become more involved in the medical community and help others as much as possible.
Sam's wish really gave our family perspective not only on what is important in life, but on how truly blessed we are as a family. Having such a strong support system, including the Make-A-Wish Illinois team, really gave our family hope that there are so many people out there willing to help, and that we will never be alone in our battles. It was truly humbling to have an organization like Make-A-Wish Illinois do whatever it took just to make my brother and our family happy, and we are greatly appreciative of them.
As a wish sibling, I think wishes are important for kids with critical illnesses because it helps them forget that they have a critical illness for a moment and allows them to feel like they are just like every other kid in the world, allowing them to just be a kid. Wishes give kids courage and hope, and allows them to gain a sense of optimism. Wishes are most important for kids with critical illnesses because they are able to bring a smile to their faces, helping them regain strength to battle their critical illnesses wholeheartedly and keep on fighting because they deserve it.
From my experience as a wish sibling, nothing is better than seeing a smile on wish kid’s face when they get their wish granted. It makes my heart happy.
Due to the steroids that Sam was given post heart-transplant to avoid rejection and the medications that he has had to take all his life, he developed kidney disease at a young age. On July 5th, 2018 we received the news that Sam would be needing a kidney transplant because of his decreased kidney function. His journey puts things in perspective for him because he feels fortunate enough to be able to live a somewhat normal life that he makes the most of each and every day.
Sam just recently graduated college and wants to inspire, encourage, and help kids/others that may be in the hospital or battling a critical illness in whatever way he can. Because of his transplant, donors have given him another chance to make his life amazing he wants to be able to do the same for others.