Dexter’s medical journey began at just six months old when he started to have seizures. The seizures that Dexter was experiencing were called infantile spasms and are one of the most debilitating types. It was also discovered the seizures had begun due to a condition called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. Because of this condition, non-cancerous tumors were found in Dexter’s brain and heart.

“You never forget the words the doctor says when you get a diagnosis,” Dexter’s mom, Wendy, recalls.

Although Dexter’s family now knew his diagnosis, his prognosis remained unknown. At the age of three, doctors found that Dexter had an additional complication, a benign brain tumor called Subependymal Giant Cell Astrocytoma (SEGA), common for those with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. With the help of medication, doctors were able to shrink the tumor within six months, giving enough time to postpone the need for brain surgery. Just a couple of years later, at age five, Dexter was diagnosed with autism. As Dexter had not presented typical indicators of a classical autism diagnosis, it took longer to receive an official diagnosis. 

Since the start of his medical journey, Dexter has endured countless medical tests, therapies and treatments, and he has to take more than forty pills each day. It was during his annual wellness check appointment that Dexter and his family learned of his eligibility for a wish.

“When we first heard about the possibility of Dexter receiving a wish, we were so excited,” Wendy remembers. “There are many challenges in his life, so to have something that would be specifically geared towards his interests and to forget about life for just a little bit would be amazing!”

After learning of Dexter’s eligibility, the next step was to decide what he wanted his wish to be. When asked questions about his wish, Dexter shared that he wanted to swim with dolphins more than anything. A little bit of research helped him decide that Atlantis in the Bahamas would be the perfect place to go. In preparation for his wish experience, Dexter’s wish granters surprised him during his birthday party with his classmates. Clad with balloons and goodie bags, the wish granters helped Dexter celebrate his birthday and shared the good news of his upcoming trip! 

The day before the big trip, Dexter ended up in the hospital for an emergency surgery. Because he needed to stay in the hospital for a few days and would need even more time to heal, Dexter’s family made a tough call to the Make-A-Wish® Iowa office to explain that he had a medical emergency and had missed the trip. After speaking with the office, they were assured that Dexter and the rest of the family would still be able to go on their trip to Atlantis.

“Dexter woke up from anesthesia asking if we were still going, so it was great to be able to reassure him that he would still get to swim with dolphins once he was better,” Wendy reveals. Once the new trip was planned, Dexter and his family began their countdown, and this time got on the plane. 

Dexter’s trip to Atlantis was an amazing experience that allowed for him and his family to enjoy together without the worries of appointments or illness. Even though Dexter’s condition will always be there, his family now has fond memories of an incredible trip that they can hold onto forever. Dexter’s trip to Atlantis will forever bring a smile to his face and joy to his family’s hearts when looking back on their experience. 

Dexter’s family emphasizes the importance of supporting Make-A-Wish Iowa because of the lasting impact it has on the brave children who are battling critical illnesses. “Supporting Make-A-Wish matters because you are supporting families and children who have gone through so much in their lives, medically, physically, and mentally,” Wendy shares. “Having this time for a child’s true wish is something that will be a happy memory forever. A gift as special as Make-A-Wish Iowa is a cherished gift of a lifetime.”

By supporting Make-A-Wish, you can create a lasting impact on wish kids like Dexter as they receive an experience of a lifetime and create lifelong memories.