“He’s been a miracle his whole life.” That’s how Melissa, 15-year-old Hayden’s mom, described her son as she watched him skate. The heart condition he was born with, pulmonary atresia, prevents blood from flowing from the heart to the lungs for oxygen. Just six months earlier, Hayden had gone through valve replacement surgery, and yet there he was, skating and shooting pucks with his favorite team, the San Jose Sharks, during his 3-day wish to be a Shark himself.
Hockey is part of Hayden’s identity. Since he was 4, he has always played on a hockey team. And after seeing Sam Tageson, another local teenage boy with a heart condition, have his wish to be a San Jose Shark a few years ago, Hayden knew that was what he wanted for his wish too. As luck would have it, the two would end up meeting during the second day of Hayden’s wish. The Sharks had just signed him to a short-term contract, which meant Hayden spent Friday practicing with the team, Saturday at the arena skating through the shark’s head and doing the ceremonial puck drop with Stanley Cup champion and Pittsburgh Penguins player Sidney Crosby, and Sunday flying with the team to Anaheim where they took on the Ducks.
The team welcomed him as one of their own, playing ping pong and taking shots on goal together. Captain Joe Pavelski said, “The guys are excited to see him. They know he’s been through a lot and you can just see the excitement on his face.” (Besides the surgery, Hayden also nearly lost both his home and his school to the devastating fires in Santa Rosa last fall.) Teammate Timo Meier added, “He’s obviously a real strong person so we’re going to enjoy the time we have with him here.”
Hayden’s wish inspired a whole team. The Sharks won both of their games during his contract. But there is a tremendous gap between the number of wishes like this that we grant today, and the number we need to grant. Even a small contribution of skills, time or money can transform the life of a child with a critical illness. Consider a contribution. You may be the next one to be inspired.
Images and video courtesy of the San Jose Sharks.