By Ashley Mackin
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Alejandra Sahagun-Gonzales, but her family calls her Alé, and she was very scared of hospitals and needles. But Alé had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, so she regularly visited Rady Children’s Hospital.
To help her feel better, her parents, temporary La Jolla residents Santiago and Alejandra (she shares the same name with her daughter), made up a special story.
“We told her we were going to a big castle with other princesses and she would get a magic potion that would make her strong,” mom Alejandra said of her 5-year-old daughter’s chemotherapy. Doctors installed a port to her daughter’s heart as a method of delivering the medicine, so she would not have to be repeatedly poked with a needle.
While undergoing treatment, the Sahagun-Gonzaleses connected with Make-A-Wish San Diego, which offered to make one of Alé’s wishes come true. “They said she could do whatever she wanted and she chose the Disney Cruise,” Sahagun-Gonzales said.
Shyly hiding behind a “Sophia The First” coloring book, Alé said her favorite part of the cruise was swimming in the pool and meeting princesses like Cinderella and Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.”
“These kids suffer and go through so much; they deserve trips like this,” Sahagun-Gonzales said.
The family took the cruise in May 2013 and one year later, Alé is undergoing her final rounds of treatment. She had her last chemotherapy session May 7, and the port to her heart was removed. “We’re at the end of the road,” her mother said.
Alé was diagnosed in 2012, at age 2, at which time the family moved from Mexico to La Jolla, so she could undergo treatment. “We’ve loved it here and we’ve tried to make it like a vacation for her,” Sahagun-Gonzales said. When her treatment is complete, the family — that includes sisters Luiza, 1, and Ivanna, 3, — will return home.
Her spirits have been noticeably lifted from this experience, reports Alé’s mother, and she wouldn’t be the only one. Make-A-Wish San Diego statistics state that 99 percent of parents with Wish children report the Wish experience gave their child increased feelings of happiness. Further, 89 percent of doctors, nurses and social workers surveyed believe the Wish experience positively influences Wish kids’ health.
Sarah Woo, communications intern with Make-A-Wish, said, “Although it is the common perception that Make-A-Wish is a wish-granting organization treating only the terminally-ill, our mission statement and eligibility requirements extend our reach to those medically eligible children who have life-threatening illnesses.” The child’s physician determines whether they are medically eligible to receive a Wish. More information about Make-A-Wish at SanDiego.Wish.org