New York trip brings huge smile to Abbie’s face; family ‘so grateful’ to Make A Wish

This trip of a lifetime showed Abbie O’Sullivan there’s a lot in life to look forward to, even where serious illness has to be faced.

New York trip brings huge smile to Abbie’s face; family ‘so grateful’ to Make A Wish

When Abbie was 12, she lost two stone in under three weeks, and developed an unquenchable thirst. Blood tests revealed Type 1 diabetes.

“Initially I though the weight loss and her thirst could have been down to the fact she was having a growth spurt, or to hormones,” said her mum Julie. “But blood tests showed it was diabetes.”

Abbie’s doctor told Julie a normal blood sugar level was between 4.9 and 7. Abbie’s was at 25.

“He said we were very lucky, that we could have just found her in a coma,” Julie told us.

Julie says assumptions were made by some people that Abbie’s diagnosis was down to eating too many sweets, or being overweight at the time.

“But she wasn’t. She was size 10 and a fine, healthy eater,” said Julie.

There’s diabetes in the wider family, with a nephew and some aunts and uncles diagnosed, and Julie believes the genetic link is entirely to blame.

The family who live in Ballyseedy near Tralee in Co Kerry have been on a rollercoaster since, on constant watch over Abbie’s food intake and blood sugar levels.

“Everything has to be weighed to determine the carbohydrate content,” said Julie. “We check that against a grid of how many units Abie’s allowed. She also has six insulin injections a day, even at night.”

Julie checks Abbie’s blood sugar at bed-time and, if her levels are not too high or low, will let her sleep undisturbed to about 4am. Then, Julie slips into Abbie’s room and carries out a pinprick test to gauge levels. Abbie is so used to this routine, that she generally just sleeps through it.

Often however, Abbie will need an injection or have to eat something at 4am to regulate her levels.

“We’ll sometimes get a run of about three days when everything’s great and under control. Then, it’s chaos again,” says Julie.

‘The blood has a mind of its own’

Ordinary events like sleepovers are problematic, as Julie worries that Abbie’s levels will start dipping or escalating.

If the level goes high, it’s bad for her organs. “The blood has so much sugar in it, it’s like treacle moving through her body,” said Julie. “If they go low, her legs could go from under her, she gets so weak.”

She describes the management of Abbie’s condition “a lot of work” for everyone, not least of course for Abbie herself.

“It’s not like she’s fine once she has her injection. There’s a lot more to it in monitoring the food and her levels. Her bloods react to excitement, stress and shock too. Basically, the bloods can just go anywhere. The blood has a mind of its own - that’s what it feels like,” said Julie.

“Abbie’s a teenager, and wants to be out and about like them. It’s hard for her. But what can you do? That’s life.”

Dream come true

During one hospital visit, a nurse advised Julie to contact the Make A Wish Foundation to make a dream come true for Abbie.

Once their turn came up on the year-long waiting list, Abbie got to tell the Make A Wish team what her dream was - a shopping trip in New York city.

“I tried to get her not to get her hopes up too much,” said Julie, “as obviously that would be very expensive.”

Make A Wish came through though, flying Abbie, Julie, Abbie’s brother Neil and dad Connie to New York for a $1,000 spending spree.

An absolutely thrilled Abbie had her make-up done too during the four-day dream trip. The family stayed just two blocks from Time Square and were treated to a limo to carry their shopping.

“It was a massive gee-up for her,” Julie told us. “She was absolutely beaming. She had looked forward to it since the moment the called to say she’d be going - she even had an app on her phone to count down the days and if she was having a bad night at home I’d say ‘Come on now Abbie, how many more days to New York? and it would buck her up.

“As a family, we got so much out of it and I just wanted to highlight the work Make A Wish do and encourage anyone who can to donate so that another family can have an experience like ours.”

When Abbie came home, it may have been back into the old routines of managing her illness, but there were friends to meet too to tell of her New York adventures, and a whole host of wonderful memories for the family.

“She’s just happier in herself,” Julie said simply. “Her illness is so unfair, but there are still things that can be planned and enjoyed.

“I just want to see my girl happy and, thanks to Make A Wish, I got that.”

Make A Wish - some facts

Make a Wish grants wishes to children age 3-17 living with life-threatening medical conditions;

More than 1,600 wishes granted since 1992;

There are four wish categories - “To be / To have / To go / To meet;

There are more than 200 wishes on the current waiting list;

The target is to grant 150 wishes in 2014 depending on funding;

Make A Wish receives no government funding;

To donate, click here.

The charity told us they are seeing an increase in “rush wishes” where the child’s life-expectancy is less than six months, and that they are receiving more eligible applications daily to have a wish granted.

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