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Co-ops Care: Granting wishes to ill children

Photo: Pamela Lankford

Cardiac dog for Lilly Miracle

McKEE

Even though her last name is Miracle, Lilly Miracle, now 19, needed a miracle of her own a few years ago. Lilly suffers from hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a severe congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is underdeveloped. HLHS leaves her extremely short of breath without warning.

Susan Woods and Eleschia Anderson both work for Jackson Energy Cooperative. Susan is office supervisor in the Manchester office and Eleschia is a member services representative in the London office. Outside of work, they grant the wishes of children such as Lilly through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“Most children just want to go to Disneyland, and that is great, but Lilly had a different kind of wish,” Susan says. “Lilly wanted a trained cardiac dog to warn her when her she is about to get winded.” 

Today, Zala the service dog never leaves Lilly’s side. When Zala senses that Lilly’s heart rate is too high or she is about to have a seizure, Zala nudges her toward a chair. Zala also is trained to soothe Lilly during times of high anxiety such as testing, surgeries and medical procedures.

Personal connection

Although each wish is special, Lilly’s wish was especially poignant to Susan. Her son, Jonah Bryon, died from HLHS almost 25 years ago. 

Jackson Energy staff, Eleschia Anderson, left and Susan Woods, right Photo: Karen Combs

“Seeing Lilly walking and living is a miracle,” says Susan. The loss of her child is what prompted her to help other children through Make-A-Wish.

“These children are so innocent,” adds Eleschia, “and they handle illness so stoically. Some of these children don’t survive. Make-A-Wish will go as far as they can to grant each wish.”

The good news is that although most cannot be cured, 80 percent of all children involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation go on to live productive lives.

“The innocence of children is that the world is all good,” Eleschia says. “Hope keeps them going and looking to the future. Hope is eternal.” 

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