Ashlee now 11, from Dublin, developed leukaemia when she was just a two-year-old. Understandably, it took away her sparkly eyes and rocked her family to the core. Make-A-Wish gave them back their little girl!
On Mother’s Day 2010, we as parents were given news that no parent should ever have to hear. After months of being in and out of hospital, “We’re sorry, but your daughter has Leukaemia”. To say we were devastated is an understatement. It was like the whole world froze and time stood still. Watching her lie there asleep, not a care in the world, not knowing that she was about to take on the biggest battle of her little life.
As a parent you know your job is to help, protect and keep safe your children, but nothing could have prepared us for what she was about to go through. At times like this there is nothing you can do, only let the doctors and nurses take over. The treatment and the fight had begun.
My wife, Donna, suggested applying to Make-A-Wish to see if Ashlee could have a wish granted. If I’m honest, I was against it because it was by belief that it was children with terminal illnesses that were only granted wishes. But we went ahead with it, and low and behold, it was not long until we got the call from Cathy (Wish granter). Ashlee’s wish was to be a princess and Arnott’s were opening their grotto for Christmas. They were looking for a child to take part (with the opening). Well this was amazing. Our little girl was going to be a princess (with Santa Claus). The details were forwarded to us and the list of what was going to be happening came through. We asked should we get a sitter for our younger son, Owen, and we were told, “No, Owen will be involved as well”. Wow, we thought, this is amazing. The excitement was building. We couldn’t wait for this day to come. The day had arrived. Ashlee and Owen were in great form. She had had her medication and chemo and was all set to go. We arrived at Arnott’s and met with Cathy and another member of the Make-A-Wish team. Ashlee was then introduced to her own personal shopper who had clothes and treats picked out, and there she was strutting her stuff up and down the room! Then it was on to Peter Marks hairdressers for more pampering. Hair done, tiara on and Princess Ashlee had been born. She was in awe of everything. She thought this was amazing. Then it was on to meet Santa and have a horse and cart journey around Dublin with Mam and Miriam O’Callaghan.
From this, she arrived back to Mary Street with a Garda escort, lights flashing, sirens going. Family, friends and strangers in the street were cheering and clapping as they arrived back for the grand opening of Santa’s Grotto. The day had come to an end and then it was on to the hotel for some rest.
The second day was just as amazing as the first. We wished it could last forever. It was amazing to see this change in our little girl, in our family. We were normal again. She was smiling. The illness didn’t exist. The illness didn’t matter.
The happiness didn’t just last for 2 days. The memories we have of those two days have lasted and will last forever. We made a lot of friends with the staff of Make-A-Wish. They are not only our friends, they are Ashlee’s friends too. They are like our family. We may not see them much, but they are always there in our hearts. The Make-A-Wish foundation gave us our little girl back, gave us our family back. For a short time, we say a smile on our baby girls face, one we had not seen in a long time. I mean, how do you repay them for that. You can’t. There’s no way.
If you want to see real heroes, well just walk around the Make-A-Wish office and there they are, the real heroes to sick children, making dreams come true.
- Ray & Donna Byrne, Ashlee’s parents