Make-A-Wish through the eyes of a nurse

Donna Blakemore, Paediatric Nurse

Donna is a paediatric nurse working in Walsall - here she talks about the impact that wishes have on her patients.

I have been a qualified paediatric nurse for 14 years. I work in Walsall on a general children's ward.

I got into nursing because my own brother was disabled and I appreciate how much pressure there is on a family when a member of the family is so ill. I understand how special you feel when your wishes come true as we won a family holiday to Florida. Years later I still recall the tremendous happiness and joy. My heart skips a beat when I think about how lovely that act was.

My job is amazing – recently I have had some severe health problems, and I almost lost my life. I have clawed myself back to fitness and hope to go back to work soon. My favourite part of my job is seeing a family go home after a particularly stressful time. Nursing gives families hope and support and I am so grateful to be involved in the lives of children and their families – children who never fail to surprise me or make me smile.

Make-A-Wish UK is a truly astounding charity, and has a huge place in my heart. There is something magical about being involved in granting wishes. The child and the family are in the centre of the process. They are made to feel special and the whole process is a miracle – there’s  almost a sense of it being unbelievable or unimaginable, yet it is very real.

donna and her friend in nurses uniform on the ward
Me on the right with my colleague Maxine on the ward 

I have referred two children to Make-A-Wish  – the process was very easy. When I sent the forms to be signed by the child's parents, I also included a special card from me. This was the first moment the family found out that they were about to have a wish granted. They had the card to keep as a token of the start of a wonderful process.

I will remember both children fondly and it brings tears to my eyes to recall their stories. I met the first incredible family when the little boy was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The family were devastated with the diagnosis. I had been with them through the scan and while they got the results, I was also involved in their transfer to a paediatric oncology unit. He needed chemotherapy and radiation therapy. He also underwent extensive brain surgery. He spent so much time in hospital.

They had spoken about their pain and fears for the future. Their words affected me and I wanted them to have something positive to off-set the diagnosis. Make-A-Wish soon realised how much this little boy loved army tanks and soldiers. They produced an amazing day where he could ride on an army truck and spend the day in the barracks. He couldn't have been more delighted. His parents couldn't believe how happy he was, they said they had never seen him happier, not even on Christmas Day.

The second little boy has a severe form of epilepsy that cannot be controlled by medication. He is on a cocktail of powerful medications to try and stop the seizure activity.  He has special needs and his parents ensure he has 24 hour care and are always by his side. He has spent a lot of time in hospital including admission to intensive care. He uses a wheelchair and is a special little boy who is always happy and smiling. He loves Mickey Mouse and his wish was to go to Disneyland. The family had a fabulous time, to see his smile was simply spectacular. The whole family were all rewarded with something so exceptional they will remember it forever.

I am still in touch with both families. It has been a joy to care for them. They felt so special and delighted that they had been nominated for a wish. It gave them a determination to be happy as a family. Wishes enabled them to be away from treatments, hospital, doctors and nurses – and instead in their own world of extraordinary dreams and magic.

I would recommend others working in healthcare to use Make-A-Wish UK. As healthcare professionals we meet special people undergoing exceptional circumstances. Medical professionals don't have to worry, the criteria are clear and the referrals are extremely easy to complete. We can refer these children and then let Make-A-Wish UK make their dreams come true.