Sophie’s wish has shown her that she can still do things. She loves learning.
Sophie appeared as a healthy child, until experiencing reoccurring flu-like stomach symptoms. Medications weren’t helping her to get better, and after being treated for pneumonia, she spiked a high fever and felt debilitating pain in her legs. Sophie was rushed to the ER, and testing revealed that she had acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM). This condition is a brief but intense attack of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, and occasionally the optic nerves that damages the brain’s myelin (the white coating of nerve fibers).
Sophie worked hard for the next year, undergoing rehabilitation to learn how to walk again, as well as educating herself about the illness. After having three attacks from the condition, she was also diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a heterogeneous condition consisting of the simultaneous inflammation and demyelination of the optic nerve and the spinal cord.
Both of Sophie’s illnesses are treated with physical therapy and daily immunosuppressant medications. Each day, Sophie is dependent upon her family to turn her throughout the night to avoid her body from stiffening. She and her family are also primarily homebound, because of the heightened risk of her getting sick and having another attack. Each sustained attack has caused her more weakness.
Kids Wish Network found out that she loved animals, aspired to be a veterinarian and had a fascination with mystical creatures like dragons, unicorns and mermaids. So a special wish was created that would make her very own fairytale come true.
Sophie’s wish began with a visit to the Carolina Raptor Center. “It was awesome,” said Sophie’s mom April. “We were able to shadow Dr. Scott and one of his assistants. Sophie got to see how their morning began, from preparing the raptors’ food, checking on all of the patients on the computer to see what they needed, and getting to sit and watch a red-tailed hawk have surgery on his talon.”
Afterwards, the family checked in to the luxurious The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, located downtown with stunning skyline views. “The Ritz- Carlton staff all went above and beyond,” said Sophie’s mom. “They gave Sophie a gracious welcome of 2 formed lines, with a lot of them dressed up with unicorn accessories. They were very helpful always making sure we had what we needed.” The hotel festively decorated Sophie’s room, made her a mermaid card signed by staff, and gave her a pink shirt with “Unicorns and Mermaids” printed on it, along with a Sophia The First mermaid doll set.
After checking in the hotel, Sophie and her family went to the spa’s pool where Amara, a beautiful mermaid was waiting for her. She had a shimmery mermaid tail for Sophie, and the two mermaids swam together and had conversations about mermaid life. Mermaid Amara also presented Sophie with a crown, necklace, sea jewels and sparkly nail polishes. “Our favorite part of the wish was seeing her with Mermaid Amara,” said Sophie’s mom. “She wanted to see and meet a real mermaid for a long time. She has prayed about it. Mermaid Amara was wonderful. She also gave Sophie blank cards so she could write her and let her know how she is doing. That really meant a lot.” After Sophie’s mermaid experience, the hotel spa also surprised her with an exquisite shell necklace embellished with a pearl.
For dinner, the family enjoyed exceptional dining at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. They made her experience extra special, creating a personalized menu for her with the name Doctor Sophie and a dog and cat imprinted on it.
The following day, the family visited the Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium, starting off with an exclusive behind the scenes tour. “Their curator Mr. Dave was very knowledgeable,” said Sophie’s mom. “We learned all about the animals and how they take care of them. We also got to spend time with their vet Dr. Sam. We saw the laboratory and a view of the shark aquarium from the top. Her favorite thing was seeing Neptune the turtle lying on his face as he slept.”
The family indulged in a decadent meal with southern hospitality at BLT Steak, located inside of The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte. “Our server really went out of his way to take good care of us,” said Sophie’s mom.
On the very last day of Sophie’s wish, she joined the Ritz Carlton’s pastry chef and learned how to make French macaroons. As a sweet reminder of her experience, she was also gifted a box of cookies that she helped to make, as well as her apron and chef’s hat. The hotel also gave Sophie a unicorn gardening set as a farewell gift.
“The wish helped her recharge. It came at a much needed time,” said Sophie’s mom. “Summer is hard for Sophie, because she can no longer run, ride her bike or play on playgrounds. The condition has been a huge change. Now her days are filled with stretching, physical therapy and sometimes traveling an hour to see one of her specialists. Sophie said the wish has shown her that she can still do things. She loves learning.”
Kids Wish Network would like to thank the following sponsors for making Sophie’s dreams become a reality:
- The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte
- Mermaid Amara
- Carolina Raptor Center
- Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium
- Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse
- BLT Steak