Ten-year-old Reagan wished to go to Paris. Her mom shares their story of Reagan's diagnosis; her strength and resolve to learn to walk again; and their family's wish experience in Paris.
Life with three kids is busy. As parents, we want our children to have the opportunity to take part in extracurricular activities. For our daughter Reagan, that was dance. When she was seven years old, Reagan developed a limp in her right leg and couldn’t do some of the moves in her dance class. We saw different doctors over the course of six months until a neurologist ordered an MRI.
On August 23, 2015, we went in for a test that should have lasted an hour and a half. Five and a half hours later, we learned that Reagan had an 8.5-centimeter tumor inside her spinal cord. She was immediately admitted to the PICU. While she was prepped for surgery, my husband and I called our parents to pick up our children from our friends’ house because we wouldn’t make it home that night. Little did we know we would not go back home for seven weeks.
At seven years old, Reagan was paralyzed from the waist down and had to learn how to walk again. She spent the next seven weeks away from home undergoing therapy. She missed school and missed being with her brother and sister and friends. When she was able to return to school, she was in a wheelchair. She watched her friends run around on the playground while she sat. She’s had therapy and doctor appointments after school while her friends were playing sports and going to gymnastics. The toughest part is that she has to work twice as hard to do what the other kids do so easily.
After her second surgery in March 2017, I got a call . The caller said, “Hi, I’m with Make-A-Wish, and Reagan has been referred to us by her doctors.”
My jaw dropped and my eyes filled with tears. I truly thought Make-A-Wish was for children who were terminally ill. I thought for a quick second her doctors didn’t tell us everything, so I quickly said “You know Reagan is ok right?”
She explained that Make-A-Wish is for children who have had or have a critical illness. Whew!! Then those tears turned to tears of joy and excitement for Reagan. It was truly the best surprise and phone call I’ve ever received in my life.
Watching your child go through something so heartbreaking and knowing this has forever changed her life and our family’s life is hard. Not being able to do anything about it as parents is even harder. But then watching someone come along and acknowledge her tough journey and say hey you’ve had a tough time and because of that you deserve to go anywhere you want. What an amazing feeling that was!
When Reagan learned she was receiving a wish, she knew exactly where she wanted to go: Paris. Her wish reveal was so special. We didn’t tell any of the kids her wish was approved until the announcement. They were so excited.
We’ll remember everything about that trip. From being picked up in a limo (Reagan’s first limo ride) to the whole week in Paris, every day was special and perfect. Reagan’s favorite was visiting the Eiffel Tower. It’s been her dream to go to Paris since she was a little girl. We celebrated her 10th birthday while we were there. She spent her eighth birthday in the hospital, so spending her 10th birthday somewhere amazing was so special.
It was very tough for Reagan to be away from her siblings for seven weeks after her surgery and not have all us of together all the time. We are a very close family, and that was something she was not use to. It was nice to have all five of us together for a full week—away from doctor appointments, therapy, other activities and just life—and be completely together. It was exciting to see things for the first time all together and be in another country. We experienced food and people and late nights and long days and a new adventure everyday—together. We went to Disneyland Paris and rode ride after ride all day. We went bike riding through the City of Versailles and had a picnic; took the fast train to London for a day; toured all over Paris and the Eiffel Tower. We baked cupcakes and played basketball in the Gardens of Luxembourg.
Every day was special in so many ways: watching Reagan be with her brother and sister; watching her walk the streets; watching her smile and be a normal kid away from a constant reminder of how her life is filled with therapy and doctors and MRIs. We talk about this trip daily and laugh about things that happened. We see things on TV and talk about how we were there and saw that. I know this trip will be the trip that we will be talking about forever.
Such wonderful memories were made and we are forever grateful to Make-A-Wish supporters who made this dream come true. They are a group of angels who swoop in and make impossible dreams possible. They make the bad go away for just a day or a week; they let children be children in whatever way they choose. They put smiles on children’s faces and memories in their hearts. This brought such a sense of joy and happiness to her life that would not have been possible without a wish. A wish impacts more than just the wish kid, it impact families.
For years, Reagan was a dancer, but the long term nerve damage caused by the tumor and surgeries has left her without much control of her lower extremities. Now she loves to cook and play the piano and actually started to play basketball. She loves basketball and works hard at it. She knows she has to work twice as hard, and she does it with a smile and a great attitude and for that I am so proud of her!! She has never complained one time about why did this happen to her. She knows God has a bigger plan for her.
—Renee Brown, Reagan’s mom