Joseph, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour, wished to drive construction vehicles.
Six-year-old Joseph lives with his parents and brother in mid Wales. He is thoughtful and caring and loves cars, construction vehicles, trains and painting.
In April 2016, mum Charlie noticed that Joseph had become wobbly on his feet. Then, he started falling asleep in school. When he fell down the stairs at home, she knew it was time to see someone.
“I thought it could be an ear infection, not in my wildest dreams did I imagine it could be a brain tumour,” remembered Charlie.
Paralysis sets in
Within 24 hours, A CAT scan, then a lumbar puncture, followed by an MRI confirmed that a large cancerous mass was putting pressure on Joseph’s brain.
Before the week was out, Joseph was having life-saving brain surgery. Charlie said, “we were told there’d be a ten-day recovery period, but when Joseph awoke, he was completely paralysed, unable to blink or swallow, and nobody knew why. It was terrifying.”
Ten days passed before he was able to even wiggle a finger. It turned out Joseph had contracted post-operative meningitis. “The most horrific moment was when doctors had to re-stitch the swelling on his head with no pain relief. It was the most atrocious, terrifying thing.”
Joseph battled through 30 doses of radiotherapy to the brain and spine and eight rounds of chemotherapy, living in hospital for five months before he eventually got to ‘ring the bell’ to signify the end of his treatment at Easter in 2017.
To continue his rehabilitation, doctors suggested Joseph should apply to Make-A-Wish. “Now that he was physically on the mend, we wanted to heal the emotional wounds,” Charlie explains.
Choosing a wish
“At six years old, Joseph’s life experience is limited – so it was tricky for him to choose something really ‘big’. To him, going to the sweet shop is a big thing. The wish visitors were amazing and soon figured out he was really into vehicles, so he built upon that to create his wish."
Joseph wished to drive construction vehicles and Wishgranter Nicola arranged for the CITB National Training College to host a day full of adventure on a huge scale!
When the humongous white stretch limousine pulled up outside, Joseph was shocked! He had never seen one before. They climbed in and it wasn’t long before Joseph and Cian found the fizzy pop and champagne glasses.
A second diagnosis
During Joseph’s treatment journey, brother Cian’s occasionally difficult behaviour became more intense, and he was diagnosed with autism.
Charlie was taught a technique to help Cian cope with what was going on around him, that involved storytelling. To help Cian prepare for Joseph’s big wish day, Charlie explained what would happen using a story on some presentation slides.
“I showed Joseph and Cian the slides and the most incredible thing was seeing the realisation come over Joseph that his wish is the reward for everything that he’s been though. It made him cry seeing the link between this really awful thing and this really amazing thing, and that was very moving.
“As we approached the college, we could see six massive cranes - it was like a city! We met our guides for the day, Shaun from Make-A-Wish, and Bob, Ian and Stuart from the college. They had this knack of speaking to the children, inspiring and engaging them.
"They supported Joseph to not just watch but to work the machines himself. Joseph was driving huge dumper trucks and they created great big earthworks for him to drive over and brought him mounds of soil to move around. It blew our expectations away.”
Ian the instructor engaged Cian with mind blowing facts and figures, and in the afternoon, the family tried out the college’s sophisticated construction vehicle simulator.
A healing experience
Looking back on the impact of Joseph’s wish, Charlie said, “This has helped to balance out all those bad experiences, and has helped in our hearts to see that it has been compensated for. Thanks to Make-A-Wish, Joseph has long-lasting happy memories which I know will be with him forever.”
“It’s easy to see a poorly child as frail and vulnerable, but actually they heal much faster than adults, they don’t feel sorry for themselves and they just get on with the now.
"It has been a healing experience for him to realise that after everything, he can do all these amazing things. He came away thinking ‘I can drive a digger’ and that was really empowering for him.
“Joseph clearly had had an amazing day because he had the biggest smile on his face the whole time. Even Cian kept saying ‘that was the best day of my life’. None of us will ever forget it, it’s with us for life.”