It sounded straightforward, but the challenges were enormous. Five year old Juan Pablo’s wish was simply to go home, for the first time. Born with severe spina bifida, Juan Pablo’s doctor predicted he would only live a few months.
The nearest children’s medical facility that could accommodate his multiple, complex medical conditions, the Saratoga Sub-Acute Hospital, was two and a half hours away from his family’s home, though they visited him every weekend. Despite his doctor’s predictions, he continued growing and doing things they never expected, but then a stroke left him completely paralyzed.
When Juan Pablo’s parents, Maria and Angel, were preparing to baptize his baby sister, they hoped and prayed that JP’s wish could be granted: to meet his sister for the first time, and spend time at home—even for just a few hours.
Transporting a child in JP’s condition requires an ambulance, in addition to two medical professionals who would be constantly at his side. As it happened, Westmed Ambulance had previously reached out to us to offer their services if we ever needed them. When we told them the story of JP’s wish, they were eager to help. As Westmed’s Clay Vance says, they provide ambulance rides for children all the time, but they thought “wouldn’t it be great if we could take kids somewhere they want to go? Little things mean so much to people. If we can do it, why not?”
His homecoming was such a momentous occasion. After close to two years of not knowing whether his wish would be possible, his doctor finally said JP was ready. As he arrived at the church, dressed in a custom-made seersucker suit donated by Brooks Brothers, Maria describes the scene this way, “It was magic, like angels on the Earth. I was so happy, it was the best day of my life.” Seeing his family all around him, “he was able to smile, his face was so bright!” says his mom. “I feel like he was teaching us that if you want something, you can make it happen.” For Brooks Brothers, “It was a gift to be able to honor and serve Juan Pablo and his parents and to see their loving smiles in the photos. This is all we need,” says their VP of Social Purpose, Emilie Antonetti.
From Westmed Ambulance, to the volunteer photographer who captured JP’s homecoming, wishes as unique and challenging as his come true because people like you see the possibility in each wish, and in yourselves, to help.
Postscript: Juan Pablo passed away in June, shortly after his wish came true. Maria says, “He was probably thinking his mission was over. He had seen his family, and knew they were going to be ok.”