On Tuesday, March 12, 2019, Forest’s mom, Gabbie, noticed her son having pain when going to the bathroom. She assumed he was experiencing constipation and took him to the doctor where they gave him medicine and sent them on their way. The next morning, however, his parents woke up to a very different kid. Forest could barely move, or speak, he couldn’t eat or drink and had a high fever. When his parent brought him back to their local clinic, he was referred to Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines for fluids and observation. Soon they were sent home with more questions than answers and a very sick child.
After days of unanswered questions and multiple doctor visits, Forest was not getting better and admitted to Blank Children’s on his second birthday, March 18, 2019, at 4 am. The following day called for more testing. After uncertainty at the hospital Forest and his family met Dr. Woods, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist, she explained she thought she finally had answers but needed a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan to verify. Two weeks after Forest first became sick, he was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), a rare form of cancer. That everyy day he began chemotherapy. This continued for weeks with steroids, chemo pills, PICC lines, PET scans and physical therapy. The intense treatment was taking a great toll on his little body but in early April of 2020 his family received the news they dreamt of, Forest’s PET scan came back cancer-free.
Gabbie had heard of Make-A-Wish® Iowa and her family have even attended Jolly Holiday Lights for many years. She never thought one of her children would be eligible for a wish until Forest’s doctor suggested she refer him. “Once we found he was eligible [for a wish] I had a lot of mixed feeling,” Gabbie remembered. “On the one hand, I was so excited for him that he would get to do or have something special after going through such a horrible time and being so sick. But on the other, it honestly broke my heart, because it was the reality of how sick he was.”
With a family of 7, Forest’s parents got creative when thinking about a possible wish and an experience that their son would enjoy. A shopping spree seemed like a perfect fit for Forest’s situation. After overcoming so much and spending so much time away from his brothers and sisters, his parents thought surprising him with his favorite things he could enjoy with his family would be the perfect way to celebrate a cancer-free diagnosis.
Forest loves construction vehicles, his parent’s chose a toy dump truck and loader to drive around their family farm. Two generous donors, Greenland Homes and Tammy Heckart Real Estate, who were inspired by Forest’s brave story funded his wish. They invited him and his family to a local construction site. There they revealed to him his wish. Forest was captivated with excitement when he saw the machines for the first time and was able to call them out by name. He was given his walkie-talkie to speak to the operators of his favorite equipment and climb inside.
The day was magical for Forest but it will be a day his parents will never forget. “That day helped Adam, and I both so much.” Gabbie shares. “We had been watching Forest suffer for so long, that to see him so happy and excited it was just an amazing feeling. It was also a day or 2 after we were told he was cancer-free so to have both of those moments around the same time, and know this happiness was just going to continue, and he wasn't going to have to suffer through treatments anymore, I honestly can't even explain the happiness behind that. Plus, he couldn't stop smiling and he has an adorable smile that lights up a room.”
Supporting Make-A-Wish is very important in so many ways. Not only are you helping kids have something, be something, or do something they have dreamed of, but you are helping them spend time with their families.
The power of a wish is far-reaching, a single wish can transform the lives of the wish children and their families by creating a dream to look forward to, a catalyst for strength or celebration after the most challenging medical battles. The power of a wish does not stop there, we know volunteers, supporters and entire communities feel so much joy after coming into contact with a wish. “Supporting Make-A-Wish is very important in so many ways,” Gabbie says. “Not only are you helping kids have something, be something, or do something they have dreamed of, but you are helping them spend time with their families. You are helping these kids and their families understand that they aren't alone and that others care and want to help. You are giving them some happiness in a time that is far from happy.”