“I wish to see the animals at a safari park”
8 years old, County Antrim
Caden’s dad, Bryan, told us his story: “Caden is a very loving, happy boy. He is extremely easy-going and content. He is intrigued by nature and animals; his favourite place to be is outdoors. He just loves an adventure!
"Since Caden has become ill he has been unable to do a lot of normal things we all take for granted. He loved anything dirty, wet or adventurous. Unfortunately, he had to restrict where he could go and what he could do because of the risk of infection. Caden has never complained about his condition and has been amazing throughout the whole process. We really wanted to give him something to look forward to. Just to be ‘normal’ for a few days and to enjoy being a family again. Being able to spend time in the beautiful setting of Port Lympne was a dream come true!"
"In August 2017 when Caden received his transplant, he said “Why can't I go and play with the animals? I just want to go and live in the wild.” We explained to Caden that with his condition it is dangerous getting close to animals, so he looked to Google for answers. After weeks of research he found Port Lympne and realised this could work for him.
"Caden began to show signs that something was not right in June 2017. He was involved in Scouts, played football, hockey and loved being active. One night he didn't want to go to Scouts as he was too tired. Then he didn't want to go to hockey as he was too cold. This was very out of character for Caden.
"One night, he just wanted to go to bed. I started to get him undressed and was in total shock when I saw his body covered in very large, dark, purple bruises. I knew something was very wrong. The hospital admitted him straight away and we were quickly moved from our local hospital to the Royal Victoria Hospital to carry out more tests."
"On June 8th, we were told that Caden had an extremely rare blood disease and that his bone marrow was failing. Severe Aplastic Anaemia means Caden could not produce the blood cells needed to keep him alive, and we were extremely lucky he got to the hospital when we did. A bone marrow transplant was his main chance of survival. The doctor asked if Caden had any siblings, as there would be a one in four chance of a match.
"Over the next few weeks, Caden received a lot of transfusions until he was stable. During this time his brother, Ben (10) and sister, Kaia (12) were tested to find a match. We couldn't believe it when we were told Ben was a full tissue match for Caden. On 28th July 2017, Caden received his life-saving transplant from his big brother Ben. For 50 days, he stayed in an isolation room and eventually started to show small signs of recovery.
"Unfortunately, Caden’s recovery has not been straight forward. As we approach the second anniversary of Caden’s transplant, he is still receiving monthly treatment to boost his immune system. His blood counts have not yet returned to normal. Caden still attends the hospital every Monday morning for a blood check. The results decide whether or not he must visit the hospital again that week. We are still waiting for the day his body accepts the new bone marrow and Caden wins the fight!
"Caden has taught us to smile in the darkest of times and never once felt sorry for himself. The most important thing we have learnt from Caden is that time is precious! I could never explain in words how proud we are to be parents to Caden, Kaia and Ben – they are the ones that keep us going.”
After Caden’s wish took place, Bryan added: “Caden was so excited in the weeks and days before his wish, thinking about what it would be like and speculating about what he might see. It was a big countdown.
“The wish went beyond anything we could have expected. From having a luxury tree house with its own golf buggy and driving around the park after closing, it felt as if we had the whole place to ourselves. As a family, we enjoyed every minute, driving from one enclosure to another to see the animals at different times of the day. On the second day, we took a safari truck and felt like we had been transported into the middle of the Savannah! The children especially loved playing Pac-Man in the maze. The highlight of the trip was feeding the lioness and seeing it growl at Caden’s sister!
“This was Caden’s dream holiday, he was full of questions and curiosity. Having the golf buggy to get around was awesome as it saved Caden’s energy levels (and his Dad’s, as I didn’t have to carry him). It was great to have all the children just playing together without any distractions or other engagements."
"It was a long time coming, seeing Caden around wild animals in a nature reserve and having full access after closing was surreal. All through Caden’s treatment, and still today, talking about animals, owning pets and setting up his own zoo is what keeps Caden focused on getting through his treatment and being immunosuppressed. Caden’s wish made him feel like this is the life everyone has been protecting him from."
"Let your children dream, it is their imagination that will support your children through their adventure, so jump on-board and hold on tight. Remember your own imagination."
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