At just a few months old, Julia’s breathing didn’t sound right and she was having trouble keeping her milk down. After being rushed to the hospital, she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged and cannot pump blood efficiently. The decreased heart function can affect the lungs, liver, and other body systems.
“We almost lost her at four months,” Grace, Julia’s mom said. Doctors explained to her that children with Julia’s condition could be divided into thirds: one third would get better. One third would continue with the condition not changing much and one third would need a transplant to survive. After three weeks in the hospital, Julia was in the first group—things were looking good.
For almost thirteen years, Julia lived a somewhat average childhood. She would always have some heart damage and took medication, but her heart seemed fine…
May 18, 2011 is a day Julia and her family will never forget. Julia went to school that morning, like every other day. But at 8:24 that morning, she went into cardiac arrest. Thankfully, it was the one day that week that the school nurse was in. She immediately began CPR while the principal was at her side, praying and telling Julia to stay with them. Julia was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Two weeks later, surgery was scheduled to put in a pacemaker. It was a frightening surgery because in order to test the pacemaker, cardiac arrest had to be induced. During the procedure, they almost lost Julia a second time. “She went from being in the group that would get better to the group that would get worse,” Grace said. Julia was now on the transplant list and waited in the hospital for a heart to become available.
For six months, Julia waited. During that time, she watched a lot of TV and listened to a lot of music. Her hospital room was decorated like a college dorm with posters on the wall and anything she wanted to help keep her occupied. Friends came to visit. Grace stayed with her as much as possible. But it was music that helped get her through. She loved listening to Selena Gomez and The Jonas Brothers. She even taught herself how to play the guitar.
When the child-life specialist at CHOP suggested contacting Make-A-Wish, Julia was excited. She’d known other kids in the hospital who’d had their wish granted and they all talked about how wonderful it was. She knew she wanted to do something for her whole family, but music had to play a role as well. Julia wished to go to the 56th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
On January 13th about a week before her trip, Julia was given a send-off fit for a celebrity as we rolled out the red carpet for her at the Hard Rock Café in Philadelphia. Julia was welcomed with applause and cheers from volunteers, friends, family and supporters of Make-A-Wish as she, her family and friends stepped out of a limo and faced a the cameras—a real crowd of fans and media were there to capture her special moment. Marc Somers of the Food Network even made a special appearance to give Julia a proper send-off, but she was truly the star of the show as she represented the 5,000th wish granted by our chapter since 1986.
Julia was given her customized itinerary and a special bag packed just for her with everything she’d need for her long flight to Los Angeles and walking the red carpet at the Grammy’s. A special Grammy’s themed cake was donated just for her party, making Julia feel like a true celebrity. And this was only the beginning of her amazing wish.
Leaving bright and early on a Tuesday morning, Julia and her family joined three other wish families in L.A. The spent the week together attending parties, back-stage events and some of the wonderful sights of southern California. They started out at a welcome lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant where all of the families got to meet. Next, it was off to the Grammy Museum for a private tour. Julia and her family posed for pictures and even got to try out some of the instruments there. They left with bags of souvenirs and even got to see Katy Perry’s famous Fruit Dress on display.
On their free day, Julia and her sister spent time together enjoying the beach and beautiful Santa Monica Pier.
The day before the Grammy’s, Julia and the other wish families got to see Chicago and Robin Thicke during rehearsals. They then took a limo ride to the Orlando Hotel for a special lunch and meet and greet with Imagine Dragons! During lunch, the band answered questions from the wish kids and they took photos with each of them and signed autographs. After lunch, we headed back downtown for an interview with Mashable. On the way out, they visited the Clear Channel gifting suite, met Demi Lavato and Gavin DeGraw. Julia even ran into one of her favorite bands—Emblem 3!
Finally, it was Grammy day! The morning started off with hair and makeup appointments for all of the wish kids, moms and sisters. After everyone was prettied up, they headed back to the hotel to get dressed. And then, the families were picked up in an Escalade limousine to head to the Staples Center. They sat front and center in the bleachers, where they could see all the red carpet action.
So many celebrites crossed their path! They had great seats for the awards show and were happy to cheer for their new friends, Imagine Dragons, who won a Grammy. They were even guests at the Grammy’s after-party.
The experience was truly once-in-a-lifetime and Julia and her family could not have experienced it without your help.
“Thank you to everyone from Make-A-Wish for this beautiful unforgettable experience you have given to Julia and our family! We all had an amazing time! We can never thank you all enough!” Grace’s mom said.
Thank you for giving Julia the chance to share the power of a wish®!