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Granting sick kids wishes may help their health

Dr. Anup Patel of Nationwide Children's Hospital shares the true power of a wish.
  • Dae'shaun and his family on their way to meet Chris Paul

  • Dae'shaun and his family on their way to meet Chris Paul

  • Dae'shaun on his way to meet Chris Paul

  • Dae'shaun meets Chris Paul!

  • Dae'shaun on his way to meet Chris Paul

By JoAnne Viviano 

The Columbus Dispatch

Posted: March 5,2018 at 3:59 PM

Dae’Shaun was in eighth grade when the epileptic seizures started.

There were so many that the North Side teen had to give up football, basketball and baseball and was only able to go to school a couple of hours each day. His friends didn’t understand, and he didn’t know how to explain it, so he shut everyone out.

His doctor at Nationwide Children’s Hospital tried a number of treatments, but Dae’Shaun kept going downhill.

Then, in his freshman year, the seizures just stopped.

The recovery came when Dae’Shaun and his family were sent on a Make-A-Wish trip to Los Angeles, where the teen and his family met NBA player Chris Paul.
Dr. Anup Patel, chief of neurology at Nationwide Children’s, called it an amazing turnaround with no apparent explanation.
Patel was so wowed that he decided to take a closer look at Nationwide Children’s patients who had received wishes, comparing them to those who had not.

He was again wowed.

“We found that if you were a wish kid, compared to not a wish kid, you were two to three times more likely to have less hospital visits, emergency department visits and healthcare costs,” Patel said. “It was pretty amazing.”

The wish patients, he added, also were twice as likely to save more in health care dollars than the $10,300 price of an average wish including administrative costs.
Patel said the study looked at Nationwide Children’s wish kids from the previous five years, comparing them with kids with similar health diagnoses, disease complexities, ages and genders. Children who had died, including about 6 percent of all wish kids, were not included in the study.

Dr Patel 599x72

Patel also is part of the Make-A-Wish America advisory board, and he presented the findings on Friday at the Make-A-Wish gala held at the Hilton Columbus at Easton.

The research has been submitted to a medical journal and a decision on whether it will be published is pending. Still, Patel is encouraging more health-care professionals to refer kids to Make-a-Wish and asking supporters to make donations.

Make-a-Wish offers wishes to children with terminal illnesses, but also with progressive or chronic, life-limiting illnesses.

About 100 wishes are granted in central Ohio each year, and about 300 children are waiting, said Christin Anson, a spokeswoman for Make-A-Wish of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. About half of all eligible children receive wishes. Anson hopes Patel’s findings help people understand the power of a wish and that Make-a-Wish is a not just a “nice-to-have” organization but a “need-to-have” organization.

She said the group grants wishes of all sorts, including special trips, celebrity encounters and some that are more unique, including one for a 4-year-old brain tumor patient who wanted to spend a day being a construction worker, like his dad.

One of the most recent local wishes granted was for Timberly, a 14-year-old Northeast Side girl with Sickle-cell anemia. She wanted to publish a book about the disease, and recently signed copies of “Timberly’s Story” at Nationwide Children’s.

Her grandmother, Vernice Barnett, said Timberly had been out of the hospital for only about a week before the event but pushed herself to attend because she felt it was important to speak out for children who have her disease.

She doesn’t know whether the wish will have an impact on Timberly’s condition, but said she’s been “on a high” since the book signing.
“It’s giving her hope. That’s what Make-a-Wish does, it gives them hope that they can make it one day at a time,” Barnett said. “They’re down and blue and ‘woe is me’ and here comes Make-a-Wish. It’s like Santa Claus. It’s ‘Alright. We can make it through this.’”

For Dae’Shaun, now, 20, the seizures have stayed away for five years.

The Make-a-Wish trip also included his mom and her husband and Dae’Shaun’s six siblings. Along with Paul, who then played for the Los Angeles Clippers, they met most of the Clippers players. They also went to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.

The next school year, Dae’Shaun went back to full-time classes and was able to play football his junior year.

His mother, Melissa Gordon, sees no medical explanation for why his seizures stopped.

While Dae’Shaun still takes an epilepsy medication to help with his condition, she said he also had been taking it before the trip.

“Without the wish, I don’t know that Dae’Shaun would be where he is now, that he would be seizure free,” Gordon said. “It gave him something to look forward to and something happy in his life.”

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