Franklin boy lives his Disney dream through Make-A-Wish

A Franklin family that has been dealing with its share of health issues recently was given a chance to put those stressful issues aside for a time, thanks to a Make-A-Wish trip to Orlando, Florida’s, famous theme parks.

Darrin “DJ” Graham, 3, was born with congenital heart disease, causing him to undergo five open heart surgeries. His most recent surgery was in July.

His mother, Rhiannon, fears after so many surgeries, a more drastic operation could be needed.

“It’s always in the back of my mind,” she said. “The next thing would be a heart transplant.”

As the family was dealing with Darrin’s health issues, his cardiologist suggested a pleasant break from their worries could possibly be found through Make-A-Wish. So, Graham applied for a wish referral for Darrin, whose wish was to go to Disney World.

Graham said she was somewhat familiar with the process of applying to Make-A-Wish because her son had spent the first year and a half of his life in UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where she met other families that had “wishes granted” through Make-A-Wish.

After being notified of a child who could be eligible, Make-A-Wish reaches out to that child’s medical professional to check for progressive, degenerative or malignant diseases. Make-A-Wish often helps fulfill wishes of children who have critical or terminal conditions.

However, Make-A-Wish says the most common misconception about what the organization does is that it only provides wishes for dying children.

According to Make-A-Wish, “wishes” have the power to transform lives by creating an opportunity for hope and the ability to experience life beyond illness.

After waiting for Darrin to recover from his July surgery, the family of six, which includes Darrin’s three sibilings, was granted three days at Walt Disney World. They also spent two days at Universal Orlando and one day at SeaWorld Orlando from Jan. 4 through 10.

Darrin’s mother described her son as always being a happy child, but she said there were moments during their trip when Darrin looked to be the happiest he’s ever been.

Graham said Darrin still talks about his trip and will tell anyone who asks about all the characters he met. A particular favorite of his is Mickey Mouse – Darrin’s personal hero and best friend since birth.

The family’s trip wasn’t typical of most other Make-A-Wish families. Graham said her husband, whose name also is Darrin, is awaiting a kidney transplant.

“We couldn’t always get up at 6 in the morning and go to the park because my husband had to do dialysis,” Rhiannon Graham said.

Her advice to other families going through similar situations is to “take it day by day and enjoy every moment. It’s about them. Just enjoy every moment.”