Heart Warrior Zoey
Casey's niece Zoey was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which means her left ventricle is severely underdeveloped and unable to sustain her body as intended. She has been through three open heart surgeries before the age of five and may eventually need a heart transplant. She is one of the toughest little heart warriors we know. Talk about one tough cookie!
Our Partnership with Little Wishes
Back in 2022, our heavenly hunks family stumbled upon a heart-touching video from Little Wishes. Seeing those brave kiddos in hospitals tugged at our heartstrings – it felt deeply personal, like a call to action. So, we jumped right in and sent over some of our heavenly hunk’s products to their program in Nashville. The magic that unfolded – the joy, the smiles, the gratitude from patients, their families, and the tireless medical staff – was overwhelming. We knew then we had to do more.Read More
Little Wishes Mission
Little Wishes™ makes a big difference for seriously ill, hospitalized children facing difficult journeys. A non-profit founded by two pediatric oncology/PICU nurses in 2003, Little Wishes helps prevent patients from losing their identity to illness by tapping into their passions. Young patients may identify what makes them happy and wish for something that will fill their hearts and brighten their darkest days.Read More
Moments of Joy
"Tonight, we did something super fun! We got out Maxely's new projector (his Little Wish) and projected a movie onto the closed window shade, turned the couch around, and had a movie night in his hospital room. All the nurses were stopping in and admiring our fun set up. It was a small thing, but made living here feel special" - Kelly (Maxely's Mom)
"Giving Carly some fun here in the hospital while we continue waiting for a heart transplant brightens our days tremendously. She has never been home (she's 11 months now), or able to enjoy things like the park so being able to give her some normalcy while we live here is the greatest blessing." - Carly's Mom
AJ, at just three years old, embodies the spirit of a true superhero every single day. Despite his battle with Cardiomyopathy, he grows stronger with each therapy session as he waits for his heart transplant."
Heart Warrior John's Story
We had the honor of sitting down with Danielle, a mom of one of our previous Little Wishes recipients, to hear first-hand about the joy that Little Wishes brings into each hospital room during days and weeks that can get long and heavy.
Just days after Danielle’s physician assistant graduation, she and her husband Tom received news at her 20-week ultrasound: their unborn son, John, had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a condition they had never heard of before. Danielle was immediately referred for a fetal echocardiogram to formally diagnose John. “We got the diagnosis, and it was definitely a shock,” Danielle shared. “He’s our first baby, and this diagnosis was a whirlwind of emotions.”
Once Danielle and her husband began learning more about HLHS, Danielle shared that many families started coming forward, connecting them with people they knew who had the same diagnosis or whose children did. “There are a lot more kids with this diagnosis at Children’s Minnesota than I thought,” says Danielle.
Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. In simpler terms, the left ventricle is severely underdeveloped and unable to sustain a person’s body as intended. As the baby develops during pregnancy, the left side of the heart does not form correctly, preventing it from pumping oxygen-rich blood to the body properly.
In December 2022, Danielle gave birth to heart warrior John at Mother/Baby Abbott, which is attached to The Children’s Minnesota Hospital. Danielle was able to hold John briefly before he was immediately taken to the cardiac ICU. John had his first open heart surgery at just three days old. He recovered well and, after a long thirty days in the hospital, John was finally able to go home, a place they had been longing to be since his birth.
After about two weeks of being home, John started to act tired and wasn’t eating well. After consulting
with John’s cardiac team over the phone, Danielle and Tom decided to bring John into the emergency room. John was admitted that night and by Sunday he was intubated, on a breathing machine, had a couple of strokes, and was continuing to have seizures, which led to the medical team discovering that John was septic and that he had a blood infection. “Things started to unravel quickly,” says Danielle.
“Of course, no one would formally tell you that they don’t know if your child is going to make it, but that was definitely the perception. They were doing everything they could, but only time was going to tell us if he would survive.” After what seemed like forever, John finally turned a corner and came out of it all. During this admission was when John
received his first Little Wish.
“Even as a baby, being able to have that opportunity to bring some joy and happiness and feel like he got to have a little something that spoiled him during such a crazy time was so uplifting,” Danielle recalls. During a wish delivery at Children’s Minnesota, the staff comes in singing with instruments. This creates small moments of joy and to gets the wish recipient excited about their wish. “He got some of his favorite books, cozy clothing, and suddenly became known as the sweet, heart warrior in buffalo plaid.” John, Danielle, and Tom ended up being hospitalized for six weeks since the night he was taken to the emergency room.
Danielle and Tom spent their time living at the Ronald McDonald House during John's admission so their
new family could be close to each other and wouldn’t have to leave John for long periods of time. During this admission, John received his second Little Wish at Children’s Minnesota. “One of my favorite things he got was this little seat that helped him sit up and play. It was a nice change for John since he had been laying in a hospital bed for the past 6 months of his life. We even started him on solids in that seat in the hospital,” Danielle shared.
“Living in the hospital and having a child in the ICU, even with me working in healthcare, I don’t think I realized how isolating and lonely it is. Even when you have a good support system and your people around you, it’s such a unique experience that can be lonely. No one can fully understand what you are going through until they go through it,” Danielle explains. Seeing other kids on the floor receiving their wishes brought her to tears. “It’s a piece of light and joy in a place where kids carry such heavy diagnoses, and these families are going through so much. To be able to have those 10-15 minutes where the staff comes in, where we are all singing, laughing, and watching John react to his new toys… those little moments were day-makers, especially during weeks that were extremely long and hard.” Little Wishes is something both patients and families look forward to during days that get pretty long. “It felt like a mini-Christmas each time,” says Danielle.
John was discharged on July 5th and has been home for a little over two months now, the longest stretch he has been able to be home since he was born. He is stable, and the family is hoping and praying that his next open surgery won’t be until he is three years old. They are soaking up being home, going on walks, having play time, and doing the little and normal things like bath time that Danielle says are now so special. “We feel really lucky that he’s home right
now and stable. We're trying to take it one day at a time and cherish this time that he is home.”
"The Little Wishes program is truly amazing. As a parent of a kid with a rare condition like Multisystem Smooth Muscle Dysfunction Syndrome (MSMDS) from an ACTA2 mutation, I know Levi will spend lots of time at doctor’s offices and in hospitals. We do what we can to make some of it more positive, but this
Little Wishes program just gave him an amazing memory from his first heart surgery that was exciting and positive."
This was a BIG and fun week for Iris. She turned four this past Wednesday and received her first Little Wish. Iris loves to pretend play with food during her OT therapies as she heals from her heart surgery. She now has her own kitchen setup and accessories in her room that she can play with on her bedside tray to help make her stay at Children's Minnesota feel a bit more like home.
Little Levi wore his very first outfit on this 3-month birthday. We honored this big milestone with a dino themed party.
Sweet Collins Little Wish was for the Lovevery play mat. Collins was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and has spent months in the hospital. She is very excited for her new play mat to have some fun with her parents in the room. She plans to shake it up with the colorful mat and fun toy gym.
Sweet Jettler is 7-months old and was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Little Wishes provided this one tough cookie with a Smart Nurture play mat and tons of toys to hang and play. They are excited to be able to change his play scene as he spends time growing with Children's Minnesota.
Little Kiya is a 2-month-old heart warrior who was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. This wish of a double stroller will help keep Mom, Kiya and her twin sister together exploring the hospital halls.
Rhys is a 16-year old cardiac warrior who LOVES fishing. His entire hospitalization he has focused on when he will be healthy enough to go to the lake and fish with his friends. He wished for a mystery tackle box that brought him so much joy and hope!
"Watching the girls look at each other in their matching jammies is a moment we will not forget." Carly's Mom
Such a sweet little wish for baby Carly who is in the cardiac ICU waiting for a new heart. With the help of Little Wishes, these sisters stay connected even when they are apart.
Update on Heart Warrior Sam
As if the stars had aligned, one of our team members came across Sam’s CaringBridge site that was shared on a friends personal Facebook page. We thought “Is this the same Iron Sam that received a wish from us through Little Wishes?” Of course, there is only ONE Iron Sam and it was in fact him!
We read Sam’s story and realized that Sam has the same heart condition as Casey’s niece Zoey - Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Both Sam and Zoey were diagnosed with this condition before birth. Each year, about 1,025 babies are born in the U.S. with this rare condition. This is just another amazing sign that this partnership was meant to be.
Our team started following Sam’s journey on his CaringBridge site and saw an update that Sam received a new heart a couple weeks ago. The journey to transplant and after is one only for warriors and that is what Sam is. We thought Iron Sam could use a care package and of course some heavenly hunks to help make his stay in the hospital a bit more bearable and help fuel his long days in PT and OT.
Thank you to Sam’s family and specifically Sam and his Mom, Stacey, for allowing us to share his heart journey.
Six-month-old Markos has overcome many obsticles during his months in the hospital. He enjoys rocking and being soothed, which is why his wish for a Mamaroo was just what the doctor ordered to help soothe and calm Markos after procedures and long days.
Little Temi is waiting for her new heart. While she waits, it is Little Wishes mission to keep her spirits high. She wished for a Bluecy play set and is already planning out what her next wish will be.
Sam is still waiting for a new heart. He is currently finishing up his school year online. He spends his after-school free time building the extravagant Lego kits that he wishes for. These kits take Sam anywhere from 1-4 days to complete, which he then displays in his room to show off his building skills.
Little Breken is LOVED by his two big sisters who also love Little Wishes. They are helpers in all things Brecken. Following heart surgery, Brecken is working on his head control and his Little Wish of a play gym will help him build back some muscles, while keeping an eye on his sisters.
In July of 2021, Landon's life was flipped upside down. His life for the next three years would consist of battling Leukemia for the unforeseeable future. After being diagnosed with cancer and thrown into treatment, Landon did not allow his humor, kind heart, and strength to be affected! Landed endured 7 months of spinal taps, multiple bone marrow aspirations, platelet transfusions, blood transfusions, chemo pills, shots, and infusions. He spent weeks living in the hospital away from his family during the pandemic. In January 2022, Landon was in the hospital, and he became ill and lifeless. Next thing a code was called and doctors and nurses surrounded him in his room. They quickly rushed him down for a CT scan that showed a blood clot in his brain. He was intubated, prepped for surgery and was quickly rolled into the operating room. The surgeons removed a blood clot from his brain and he stayed in a coma for nine consecutive days. Landon awoke with many deficits after the blood clot in his brain. His family was told that walking, sitting, talking, and eating would never be possible again. Today, Landon's days are filled with things that were not possible. He's full of life. He fights every day to be better. He is his usual joker self and can now give his sisters a two-armed hug. He is currently pushing himself hard physically and all while still taking chemotherapy every day. He is WALKING into his chemo treatments!
Sweet two-year-old Rinken is currently recovering from a heart transplant. To say that she is a Paw Patrol super fan would be an understatement! Rinken's hospital room was turned into a Paw Patrol paradise that included toys, bedding and much more.
Born the week of Christmas, little heart warrior John has spent the first three months of his life at Children's Minnesota. John needed heart surgery and since has spent all of his time in his bed attached to tubes and wires while recovering. As soon as the tubed were removed, John was bundled up in comfy clothes and his space was personalized to make it feel a bit more comfortable. John has been enjoying being wrapped up in his cozy new clothing surrounded by a fuzzy blanket with his parents reading him The Big Blue Truck book.
Heart warrior Marques was Children's Minnesota's first patient to have their wish granted. Marques has been in and out of Children's Minnesota since he was born. He is so familiar with the Cardiac ICU unit that he even has a favorite and least favorite room. He knows this unit all too well.
Eighteen year old Marques recently had valve replacement surgery and all he wanted after his surgery was some AMP merch and a Joker Funko Pop Figurine.
Little Wishes Launch Party
On February 8th, part of the heavenly hunks and Little Wishes team went to Children's Minnesota to join their staff to celebrate the official launch of the Little Wishes program and to celebrate Children's Minnesota's very first wish. The day was full of celebration, hunks and joyful moments.