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“I wish to meet Sir Tim Peake”
11 years old, Worcestershire
Joel, 11, from Worcestershire, was diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel condition called Crohn’s disease in March 2018 after being poorly for around 18 months.
He missed a lot of school because painful ulcers in his throat and all the way down his digestive system made eating difficult. He spent eight weeks on a liquid shake diet to help them heal and now has fortnightly infusions.
Joel’s illness has no cure so he'll always need treatment. His nurse referred him to Make-A-Wish, and he wished to meet the British astronaut Sir Tim Peake. Science museum visits with his family had sparked a fascination for science and outer space in Joel, and he listened to Sir Tim’s audiobook on repeat, though he knows his condition means he could never follow in his footsteps
His mum, Katherine, said: “Joel had a space magazine he was busy reading when he was in hospital for 10 days and when Tim went into space, he followed his story with huge interest. We tried to make sure Joel knew it might not be possible to grant his wish because we didn’t want him to be disappointed. His Wishgranter, Nicola, kept us updated regularly and then one day she said, it’s happening! We were so excited.
“Not only were we going to meet Tim, but Nicola had organised overnight accommodation and a limo and it became so much more! The planning that went into it was amazing. A package arrived with our train tickets and an itinerary – as a normal family you just don’t get someone booking everything for you like this.”
Joel counted down the days until Tuesday 21st May when he, his parents and his sister arrived in London, ready to meet an astronaut! Joel and his family were chauffeur-driven to the exclusive Mosimann member’s club in Belgravia where a Make-A-Wish representative met them and took them to meet Sir Tim Peake himself.
Katherine continued: “We found out the hotel where we met Sir Tim had done the catering for William and Kate’s wedding. We felt that we were being treated like royalty ourselves! The driver who took us to Mossiman’s was really lovely and the son of the owner, the chef Anton Mossiman, met us on the steps. We’d never ever been anywhere like that and probably never will again!
“Joel was very excited and when Tim Peake arrived, he was such a gentleman. He was absolutely lovely, very down-to-earth, very polite but very interested in Joel and just as enthusiastic about space. Joel was absolutely beaming when he met him and he had written a full page of questions to ask Tim. The first one, about commercial space travel, took him by surprise but Tim just went through them all one by one and gave little stories to illustrate his points, then showed him the space pictures that he’d taken on his iPad. He was asking Joel questions as well.
“Joel knows that he’s too poorly to be an astronaut but he was asking Tim about other roles within the space industry. I didn’t know that from the International Space Station you see the sun rise 16 times, but Joel did! Afterwards Joel said, ‘I’ve actually met Tim Peake’, he was absolutely buzzing!
"That little extra thought from someone who’s as obsessed with space as Joel was absolutely incredible. One of those memories that our family will have for a very long time."
“There was a lovely extra touch because Joel knew that astronauts can take a request for food or drink with them and Tim Peake’s request was for a particular tea. So Nicola had arranged for them to both have matching Yorkshire Tea mugs with Tim’s Tea and Joel’s Tea printed on them. Then Tim gave Joel a book, signed some of his things and gave him two badges that he’d actually taken to space with him. Joel gasped and his jaw dropped! That’s not something we would ever have expected. That little extra thought from someone who’s as obsessed with space as Joel was absolutely incredible. One of those memories that our family will have for a very long time.
“Then our day carried on being amazing because the limo driver collected us and took us to the theatre and we got to see Aladdin the musical. We didn’t twig at the time, but Joel said obviously he had had his wish granted and the genie in the musical grants wishes so it all fitted perfectly. Looking back, it was so incredible. Joel was just awestruck. It all has a dreamlike quality to it now but he was thrilled to bits.
What the wish meant
"There are lots of negatives associated with disease and a wish just provides that lovely positive, amazing experience that children can look forward to and then look back on, not just the pain and discomfort"
“There are lots of negatives associated with disease and a wish just provides that lovely positive, amazing experience that children can look forward to and then look back on, not just the pain and discomfort. From the rest of the family’s point of view, the fact that we were all able to go up to London, including Joel’s sister was so special. It was also absolutely incredible to have other people outside of the family interested in doing something so amazing for your family - creating that incredible experience that’s so much more than you could have ever dreamt of. It’s not something that we would do ever.
"You’re over the first hurdle but that realisation that there’s no cure and that he’ll need treatment all his life is difficult. But compared to some children with Crohn’s he’s not so poorly most of the time. It’s very difficult for us as parents to see him in pain or struggling but you have to cope and find out as much as you can to help. It makes a real difference.”