Cade’s medical journey began before his life did; born with Lissencephaly, doctors warned that Cade’s condition was incompatible with life. At their 20-week ultrasound, Cade’s parents were informed of several abnormalities that indicated he would have advanced medical needs if he were to survive birth. “Further ultrasounds confirmed fears, and we were told that Cade’s condition was incompatible with life,” Erin, Cade’s mother, shares. “We were told that if he survived until birth, he would live somewhere between a couple of hours and a couple of weeks.”

Shortly after Cade was born, he was transferred to the University of Iowa NICU where he was first diagnosed with Lissencephaly, epilepsy, Pierre Robin Sequence, heart defects, arthrogryposis and club feet. After 19 days in the hospital, Cade’s parents were delighted to finally bring their little miracle home. 

Lissencephaly is a rare genetic mutation where the whole or parts of the brain’s surface appear smooth. Lissencephaly is caused by defective neuronal migration before birth and results in a lack of development in the formation of the brain. Cade’s condition proves to be the underlying cause of many of his other diagnoses. As a result of his medical conditions, Cade is non-verbal, unable to walk, cognitively delayed, is fed by a feeding tube and experiences seizures daily.

“To date, Cade has spent close to 200 nights in the hospital and had three surgeries,” Erin explains. “[Cade’s] medical team consists of many specialties that follow him regularly, including Cardiology, Neurology, GI and ENT. While Cade’s life is challenging due to his medical condition, he is a very happy little boy! He gets great enjoyment out of the simple things - being outdoors, swimming, and when his brother Chade talks and plays with him”

Despite the challenges that Cade’s medical condition presents, he continues to enjoy the simple things in life and defies all odds. Cade and his family first learned of Make-A-Wish® Iowa before he was even born. While his parents were familiar with Make-A-Wish, they were unaware of the extent of the organization.

Before learning of Cade’s eligibility, his parents attended the Dubuque Gala after meeting with other families who were faced with similar situations. It was at the gala, after hearing of the experiences the children and their families went through, that Cade’s family decided Make-A-Wish was an amazing organization to support. Soon after becoming involved with the organization, Cade’s parents found out their son was eligible for a wish. “Finding out that Cade was eligible for a wish was surreal,” Erin recalls. “We knew it would give us an experience like no other and one that we could enjoy as a family without the stressors and worries of everyday life.”                  

After learning of Cade’s eligibility, he and his family soon began the process of choosing a wish. To decide what wish would be perfect for Cade, wish granters took the time to understand his medical condition and needs. It was important to ensure that Cade would be involved in every aspect of the process and that his experience would be magical. “Cade loves to be outdoors, so we wanted to be sure we went somewhere with nice weather [and] wanted to make sure that we could do the entire experience as a family,” Erin shares. “The San Diego Zoo seemed to be the perfect fit. The weather in San Diego [would be] perfect. We were excited to see how he would interact with the animals and it would be an experience that we would all enjoy.”

Cade and his family were able to relax as the Make-A-Wish Iowa planned every aspect of the trip down the smallest details. His trip was filled with private tours at the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld, tickets to LegoLand, a hotel on the water and more. Cade’s wish experience provided an opportunity to forget about the stress of everyday life, come together and spend time as a family. During his trip, Cade went on new adventures; he was able to pet a sea lion and a koala, feel a panda’s fur and be kissed by a dolphin. Despite his physical limitations, Cade experienced things that gave him hope and strength as he continues his medical journey.

“We will always be grateful for this experience and the impact it had on our family, not just for that week but for the rest of our lives,” Erin expresses. “We talk about our trip regularly and it brings back so many amazing memories. Our attitude has always been that in 20 years we don’t want to look back and say ‘Remember that time we stayed home and watched a movie?’, we want to be able to say ‘Remember that time we fed giraffes!’ Make-A-Wish helped us add so many things to that list of memories that we will cherish forever. It was truly the trip of a lifetime!”

Cade’s family hopes his story will inspire others to become involved with Make-A-Wish and support the organization that provides life-changing wishes to children battling critical illnesses. By supporting Make-A-Wish, you can create a lasting impact on wish kids like Cade as they receive an experience of a lifetime and create lifelong memories.