Just How Helpful is Making a Wish Come True for Children With Life Threatening Illnesses?


Tiffany Rowe was 15 when she accomplished her biggest childhood dream. She met Michael Jackson at a live concert and actually got to dance on stage with him.

Over 30 years later, she still recalls how monumental the moment was for her. Not only was she overjoyed to meet her idol Michael Jackson, but she absolutely loved to dance. She loved the feeling of dance and felt connected and comfortable with her body as she moved with him.

She remembers how, for the first time in a long time, she felt at one with her body.

Rowe was diagnosed with idiopathic aplastic anemia as a child; her bone marrow was completely failing and it had been caught at a late stage where she was given only 3-6 months to live.

Meeting Michael Jackson was transformative for Rowe, especially since she had previously felt like her body had betrayed her.

So how important is making a wish come true for children who are very sick?

The founder of the Make a Wish Foundation Jamie Sandy explains that a child must have a life threatening condition (not necessarily a terminal one) to receive a wish.

The Make A Wish foundation has over 60 chapters in the US and since 1980 has granted over 300,000 wishes.

Each year about 27,000 children are diagnosed with qualifying life-threatening diseases, and last year 15,400 wishes were granted, so there is a gap in the wishes provided.

While the foundation tries to fill the gap, some scientists are trying to learn the effect that these granted wishes have on the children who receive them.

A Pediatric Research journal study looked at 1,000 children who had serious illnesses. All of these children were treated at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. Half of the children received a wish from Make a Wish foundation and the other half did not.

The study found that the children who were granted a wish had significantly lower rates of trips to the emergency department or unplanned hospital trips in two years than those who did not have a wish granted.

One chief neurologist at the Hospital where the study was conducted guesses that the difference may be in the children and families engagement after having a wish granted. She hypothesizes that families may be more engaged after receiving their wish. They may adhere more strictly to their treatment plan.

What is hard to measure in studies like these however, are the feelings of hope that these wishes may inspire in very sick children.

Having their wishes granted may give children a reason to fight harder and feel more happiness and hope-a hard thing to measure quantitatively.

Another study conducted found that while the average cost of a wish is $10,682, it has the potential to be less than the expenses a child who was not granted a wish might incur. This study found that twice as many children who were granted wishes had lowered health costs as compared with sick children who did not receive wishes.

Dr. Arthur Lavin, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, says the findings make sense to him.

However, he does caution people to realize that if a child does not get better, it is not a “failure” on the wishes part or a result of negative thinking on the child’s part.

On a broader scale, Dr. Lavin believes that being kind and caring to a sick child can have an amazing impact on their health and wellbeing.

While it is hard to predict the effect of kindness on someone’s health, it does not mean it does not have value. On a daily basis, Dr. Levin tries to add joy to the lives of the children with whom he works. He goes beyond treatment and tries to make the child happy for a few weeks, because sometimes that is “better than any medicine I can give them,” he says.

Read the source article here.

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