At age 5, Ireland got an opportunity to travel to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida through Make-A-Wish South Dakota. Ireland’s wish brought her happiness and relief from intense treatments, inspiring her to remain an active part of the Make-A-Wish family to this day.
Born prematurely, the first years of Ireland’s life were filled with month-long hospital visits, various physicians and many unanswered questions. Ireland’s doctors couldn’t seem to discover why the small child was so sick, until a blood clot was found to be blocking 2/3 of the blood flow to her liver. She was diagnosed with portal vein thrombosis which caused the family to visit a variety of specialty hospitals in search of a long-term cure for her condition.
The family discovered a life-saving surgery at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago and decided to take a leap of faith, unsure of what the outcome would be. Ireland’s mother, Jessica, expressed her thanks to their surgeon for never giving up on her daughter’s case. She remembered, “[Ireland] proved to be a tough case, but after this surgery (that he had to redo twice in the same week, lasting 12-20 hours each time), life started over for her and us!”
The family was introduced to Make-A-Wish South Dakota early on in Ireland’s medial journey but was unsure of accepting at first. Jessica was under the impression that wishes were only granted to children with terminal illnesses. However, after reassurance from doctors that wishes are provide hope and relief for children battling critical illnesses, the family joyfully accepted Ireland’s wish to go to Disney World.
On her wish trip, Ireland remembers waking up at Give Kids the World Village on her 5th birthday with cake and balloons on her doorstep. She dressed up as Snow White and ate ice cream for breakfast! She was overjoyed with the special treatment from the Disney World employees who allowed her to move to the front of the lines. At only age five, Ireland’s wish deeply impacted her, saying that to this day, “[my wish] was one of the best things in my life.”
Wish mom Jessica said about the wish trip, “when families are given sick children, many normalcies flee; many common activities become luxuries. Make-A-Wish gave us a chance to feel like normal people again—actually, even better than normal. Make-A-Wish gave us the opportunity to feel like all our worries were non-existent. That is a true gift… even if it only lasts a few days.”
Ireland, now age 13, is described as ambitious, sweet and able to make anyone smile by her classmates. Ireland’s mom no longer needs to be concerned about her daughter’s health, as she has been taken off all 17 of her medications and has been cleared for all “normal activity” by her doctors. As a 7th grader, she was able to play on her high school’s JV basketball team, a sport she loves but never imagined she would be able to participate in!
As her health increased and doctor visits lessened, Ireland and her mom found a new way to spend their time together—raising funds for Make-A-Wish so that other children can have the same life-changing experience that Ireland did. In 2017, Ireland raised enough money to make a child’s wish come true! Since then, Ireland has raised $8,089 for Make-A-Wish South Dakota through various fundraising efforts. These funds will allow her to make another child’s wish come true this year!
The 13-year-old thrives off helping others, saying “it is the absolute best feeling in the world to know you’ve helped other people…” This inspiring story of Ireland’s journey with her medical condition didn’t just impact her immediate family but her extended family, many close friends and her entire community. Wish kid Ireland took the most difficult situation her family had ever encountered and turned it into something beautiful.
“We joined the Make-A-Wish family—a decision I will never regret, and it took us on the trip of a lifetime for our family…” -Jessica, Ireland’s mother