Make-A-Wish surprises boy with sickle cell anemia with trip to Disney World

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With the help of Make-A-Wish Illinois and La Rabida Children's Hospital, Wednesday a young boy was surprised with a trip to Disney World. Its a trip that's good for the heart and the soul.

Jamontae Harris suffers from sickle cell anemia, a genetic mutation of the red blood cells.

You wouldn't have known it but the 8-year-old Jamonte Harris is often in a lot of pain, the result of stress aggravating his sickle cell anemia, a genetic mutation of the red blood cells that hurts his blood's ability to do all it has to for good health. The mental stress, dehydration and low oxygen situations make it difficult for Jamonte, or any kid, to run and play, like all kids should.

But Wednesday afternoon, Jamonte is thinking of the ice cream he can eat 24 hours a day at Make-A-Wish's camp, near Disney World, where he and his brother, mother and dad will be staying for a week. This trip will be a rerun of the time the family had the same experience for his older brother.

ABC 7 Chicago's Ravi Baichwal asked what he will do there, Jamontae said everything, especially go on all the roller coasters.

"I couldn't do all of them when I was a kid when my brother had (the Make-A-Wish) because I was too small," Jamote said.

Jamontae has been treated at LaRabida since birth. The specialty hospital for children with chronic disability and illness is full of light on Wednesday, because in clinical terms, these trips are transformative.

Dr. Radhika Peddinti heads the hospital's sickle cell treatment program, she is also an medical advisor to Make-A-Wish. The pediatric hematologist-oncologist says with the trip Jamontae "puts a pause button on the illness like we talk about, and not only that it is something for him to look forward to, a lot of mind over matter as well," to help him deal with his condition.

"We have had patients that have gone to these Make-A-Wish trips and come up with a career goal that we are not potentially aware of," Peddinti said.

Peddinti is joined by the main caregiver, Tanisha Jones, a nurse practitioner.

Baichwal asked,"What did you see on the face of your patient?"

"I saw joy, excitement that sometimes you don't see in our patients because of their disease process," Jones said.

Make-A-Wish Illinois grants over 700 wishes annually, aiming for 1000; the partnership with La Rabida is key.

Amid the hoopla, the hospital's Director of Medicine, David Saglin, MD, said "we strive to help our families and children reach their fullest potential that is our goal."

Jamontae's father was in tears when the elevator door opened, that's because once again he is with family.

"I love this hospital, they are great it is like family," Jerome Harris said. "Family. Yeah. They are my peoples."

And then his son, the object of everyone's affection comes up, said he just wants to be a normal kid.

"Thank you for making it happen for me," Jamonte said.
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