From the moment she was born, Ericka faced intense medical issues. At birth, Ericka experienced a stroke which damaged a majority of the left hemisphere of her brain, causing Ericka to have seizures and a weakness on the right side of her body. A series of medications and weekly therapy sessions seemed to improve her condition and put an end to her seizures. At age 2, Ericka’s seizures returned and became dangerous, unable to end on their own. These seizures required rescue medications and often sent Ericka to the emergency room. Her seizures worsened which led her family to pursue medical help at an epilepsy center at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
“As a family, her seizures changed us. For over 2 years, we were terrified to travel anywhere for fear of her needing to go to the ER, or having a seizure while driving on the interstate,” states Ericka’s mother, Laura. “We genuinely lived in fear, just waiting for the next seizure to hit.” This fear-filled life intensified for Ericka’s family upon arriving at Mayo Clinic and realizing how incredibly dangerous her seizures had been. Ericka was at risk for severe brain damage and Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy with each seizure she experienced.
On September 13, 2018, Ericka received a life-altering surgery that disconnected the left hemisphere of her brain in an attempt to cure her epilepsy. Miraculously, Ericka has not experienced a seizure since the surgery. “We are thrilled that she has not had one seizure since surgery, but we won't know for some time yet if she is truly cured,” states Laura.
Medications are still a prominent part of Ericka’s daily routine to ensure she stays seizure-free, but the family is incredibly thankful for the progress Ericka has made, stating, “Since surgery, Ericka has blossomed. She’s learning, she’s inquisitive, her speech and motor skills have improved. She’s much more comfortable in her surroundings and in who she is. She isn’t as shy or timid as she used to be, and she isn’t fearful.”
Shortly after Ericka’s surgery, a friend encouraged the family to see if she would qualify for a wish through Make-A-Wish South Dakota. Ericka qualified and knew immediately that she wanted to meet Minnie Mouse and see the castle at Disney World!
Ericka and her family traveled to Florida for her wish at the beginning of September. The family spent one day at Universal Studios, one day at SeaWorld and several days at Disney World. Ericka loved everything about Disney World but was especially fascinated by the fireworks. “My husband took a video of her watching Tinkerbell’s flight from the castle, and her expression and excitement are absolutely magical. We watch that video often, most of the time with tears in our eyes,” said Laura. “Ericka has been through so much and will continue to face many difficulties, and we were so happy to be able to experience her bursting with joy.”
Ericka’s wish was a celebration of her health to her family. Wish mom Laura reflected, “[Her wish] meant celebrating! Celebrating Ericka and her year of seizure freedom, celebrating that she is thriving... It has given her wonderful memories of a truly magical experience. I’m sure she will never forget it.”
Laura explained how her family will forever be connected to the Make-A-Wish family, claiming, “[Ericka’s wish] was amazing from start to finish. Actually, I wouldn’t even say finish, because we feel like we are now part of the Make-A-Wish family… we will be forever grateful for this experience.”
Wish parents Laura and John expressed their thankfulness and love for the Make-A-Wish organization, hoping to get more involved in the future. Laura said, “For me personally, once our girls are older and I have some more free time, I would love to be a volunteer wish granter. I want to be able to give back to this organization that gave us so much.”
Ericka’s wish to meet Minnie Mouse was spectacular due to support from Walt Disney World and The Walt Disney Company. Disney provided theme park tickets and other perks for Ericka and her family as part of their overall relationship with Make-A-Wish. Thank you to The Walt Disney Company for your continued generosity!