Almost every kid dreams of having a tree house – a space all to themselves. A place where their wildest dreams become reality, their imaginations take flight, and the world becomes their own. That’s what Victor wished for at age six.
Diagnosed at age five with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), Victor’s world changed. Prior to diagnosis, his mom Dana said he was full of energy, seemed totally healthy and was like all the other kids his age. “The diagnosis was a lightning strike out of the sky. The grief and fear were so overwhelming that anytime I stood up to walk across the room, it felt like the floor under my feet was rocking like a boat. My fear and uncertainty about his future manifested in this very literal sensation,” Dana told us.
Reality for Victor and his family quickly changed. Victor’s fear of needles, doctors and hospitals made his transition from kid to patient extremely difficult. He was so frightened he had a panic attack as he was heading to surgery for his first of many surgical procedures. “The trauma for him of losing control of his body and being aware he could not prevent people from touching, poking or hurting him was profound and something we are currently working through in therapy,” said Dana.
Victor has had five hospital stays, countless ER visits, and has been on continuous chemo since February, 2017. He’s had allergic reactions to medications, his liver function crashed, and the list goes on.
After all Victor has been through, it’s understanding that what he wanted more than anything in the world was a place to escape…. he wanted a tree house. Since being diagnosed, Victor hasn’t been able to attend school. He missed his friends, his teachers and really grieved about missing school. The tree house was his answer to being able to just be a kid again. A place where his dog, Columbo, could come up and play. more than just after school play date for him. He wanted a place where his dog, Columbo, could come up and play. A place to play video games. A place that didn’t remind him of the things he couldn’t do anymore, but where the sky was the limit.
The process of deciding on Victor’s wish, gave him an opportunity to talk about something that wasn’t related to his illness. “It was transformative for Victor. Once we learned he qualified for a wish, we started watching videos, talking about what kind of wish his might make. We drew pictures, made lists, and we joked around – silly stuff like how wishing for a pet rhino would be a really bad idea!” Dana said. She continued, “Suddenly, instead of Victor’s attention being focused on missing out on school and having to go to the clinic, we had this powerful ability to put our attention on a dream that would come true! It empowered him, delighted him, gave him a sense of control back and something to look forward to.”
In January 2018, construction on the long-anticipated tree house began. Make-A-Wish worked with McCoy’s and Heritage Home builders to make Victor’s wish a reality. Victor’s excitement when he saw the construction workers come into his backyard radiated through the house. Dana told us that watching the wish happen is what had the biggest impact on Victor. “He seemed very appreciative of the builders and everyone executing his vision. He would stand in the yard as they were building and smile and nod as if to say ‘yes, you’re getting it exactly right – this is JUST how I saw it in my head!”
In March 2018, the tree house was finally ready. He jumped with joy and his eyes shined as he climbed up for the first time; Columbo following close behind. His tree house was everything he had dreamed of.
Since getting his wish granted, Dana said, “It helped us see Victor as a whole person again, with specific hopes and dreams for himself. It was emotional and spiritual manna at the time we needed it most.”