“I wish to be a Ghostbuster”
8 years old, Harrogate
George was born with half a working heart so his wish to be a Ghostbuster, have a ride in an Ecto-1 car and go ghost hunting was an imaginative escape into a world where the heroes are different and brave – just as he has had to be during three life-saving operations. It was also a positive reminder of all the things he CAN do, when he can’t run around like his friends.
Or, in his own words: “The reason I chose to be Ghostbuster for a wish is because when I first watched Ghostbusters the film, it turned my whole entire life upside down, and it made it completely happy.”
George, eight, from Harrogate in Yorkshire, lives with his mum Jane, a teacher, dad Matthew, a driving instructor, sister Poppy, 13, two guinea pigs, and a large collection of film memorabilia!
George has Epstein’s anomaly - a rare form of congenital heart disease which means only half his heart works properly, leading to lack of oxygen, tiredness, muscle cramps and headaches.
He needed ventilating as soon as he was born and had open-heart surgery within hours. A second operation took place when he was a toddler and his ‘heartiversary’ - the anniversary of his last operation - is 8 June.
Jane explained: “After George was born, he was taken straight to intensive care. He only managed to breathe on his own for about 30 minutes and was then ventilated straight away. So we only got to see him for about two minutes, and he was lying there with oxygen and tubes all over the place.... He was born on a Wednesday afternoon and had open heart surgery at 7:00am on the Friday, and he was in surgery until about half past two.”
Matt added: “Just before he was born, I looked up and suddenly there were about 30 people in the room. He was whisked off because he was in real trouble. Nothing like when Poppy was born, our older daughter, who I got to hold immediately and cut the cord and be all there as a three together. I didn’t hold George for five days, finally, after all the nine-month build up.”
He continued: “George’s condition means he can't pump blood to his lungs as well as anyone else. He's always had issues with oxygen levels, he's had three major open-heart surgeries to correct it as much as they can, although it'll never be perfect. And even now he struggles with oxygen levels so he can't do anywhere near the amount of exercise that all of his friends can do. They're all playing football endlessly, and he can't join in any of that. He gets severe leg cramps at night in particular and he can't control his body temperature, so we've got through the critical sort of life-saving stuff, but it still very much affects him day to day, including his experience of school and things. He's very different to every other eight-year-old boy.”
It’s that difference that inspired George’s choice of wish. The Ghostbusters are different and brave – as he has had to be when he’s scared of the dark because of his experience having general anaesthetics, and worried about school.
George's heartiversary every year also happens to be Ghostbusters Day globally because it marks the anniversary of the day the first Ghostbusters film was released in 1984. So, it was important to George and his family that his wish was granted around that time in 2022.
When we shared George’s wish story in April 2022 to highlight some of the wishes waiting to be granted, Ghostbusters fans and communities from all over the UK rallied round offering to help grant George’s wish.
Peter Cooper from Manchester, who runs Film Car Hire, offered to drive George in his replica Ecto-1 car which was used in Sony’s promotion of the most recent Ghostbusters film.
Daniel, Wayne, Chris and Toby from East Midlands Ghostbusters offered to role play Ghostbusters for the day and used their contacts to obtain video messages from actors Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Logan Kim and Celeste O’Connor as well as comedian Keith Lemon – a fellow fan.
Word also reached Scotland where Ecto-Con took place in May and George and his family were offered free tickets. They dashed up to Glasgow at short notice and had a fantastic time mingling with more fans of the franchise and Ecto-influencers!
On June 7th, Daniel and his team visited George and his family at home to give him some merchandise they’d amassed from Columbia Pictures, Ghost Corps, Hasbro and other organisations. They also showed him some of the video messages their friends had recorded.
What George didn’t yet know was that they were also building him a proper ‘proton pack’ like their own adult versions, with flashing lights and noises so they could avoid ‘crossing the streams’ together when they went ghost hunting on his wish.
In the meantime, Make-A-Wish had been scouting for the best location to film that ghost hunting and this is where George’s local community in West Yorkshire rallied round. Leeds Central Library offered to open their stunning Victorian building, complete with its own history of hauntings, on a Sunday. Their staff helped turn it into a spooktacular venue and arranged for the Ecto-1 to park right outside the building.
Leeds City Council threw their weight behind the wish by giving filming permissions, helping with the route the Ecto-1 could take on the day of a local triathlon and the local mayor offered to present George with a certificate to thank him for keeping the city safe.
Then West Yorkshire Police, whose officers have granted two previous wishes, turned out in force, providing not only a van and motorbike police escort so the Ecto-1 could use its blue lights, but also a guard of honour and the facility for the “ghost trap” to be taken into custody.
Opps Officer Diane Crawshaw and PC Shane Kenny were lynchpins in organising this, and PC Kenny is also training to run the London Marathon for Make-A-Wish this October. Their team recorded video messages, Chief Inspector Jayne Addy wrote and framed a beautiful poem for George, and even offered for him to join their ranks they were so impressed with his skills!
George’s Wishgranter, Eszter, played a cameo role as a ghost maid, to replicate a real-life version of the Atmos-FX apparition – kindly gifted for the occasion too – and Sony Films generously allowed us to use their intellectual property in digital posters of George placed on billboards around the city, with thanks also to Clear Channel and Mobile Media Group for waiving their usual advertising fees.
But George’s day didn’t end with the ghost maid being captured. He wanted the Ecto-1 to drive to Leeds Children’s Hospital, where he has treatment, so that other children could share in his special day. And so that’s what happened!
George met another George, who was in hospital having tests, as well as young Oscar, who had been a hospital patient for a year, and who loved having a selfie in front of the Ecto-1.
The impact of George's wish
Afterwards, George’s mum Jane said: “Today has given George so much confidence. He just turned up, jumped out of the Ecto-1 in front of loads of people and just strolled up to the Major of Leeds at the door of the library and was shaking hands.
"It’s really made us grateful and feel that we’re not alone. So many people came together to recognise what he’s been through but also what families like us go through. It’s given us something that George will take with him for the rest of his life."
And for the third time in a week, George said he’d had the best day ever! Asked what his wish meant to him, George added: “It just means to me that I can do anything and nothing’s out of my reach and I tried not to get scared. It just makes me feel happy!”
It also meant a great deal to everyone who witnessed the joy on George’s face when his wish came true. Thanks to every single person who made it possible.
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