(Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)
All the festivities came as quite a surprise to Christian, as he celebrated his eighth birthday with friends and family at the Jonesboro Bowling Center, Saturday morning, March 13. His mouth dropped open in surprise and delight as Make-A-Wish volunteers rolled out the computer system, in the midst of Christian's opening presents. He didn't waste any time going over to the computer to have a close up look.
Make-A-Wish volunteers present were Gerald Dulaney, Sharon Haggenmacher, Denise Dunigan, and Pam Mangrum. Sonic employees also dropped by to wish Christian a happy birthday. Sonic volunteers collected money for Make-A-Wish during the February 13 Radio-Thon.
Christian's birthday cake was donated by Hay's. Pizza for the large group of family and friends was donated by Jonesboro Bowling Lanes, along with helium balloons, festive table decorations, and drinks. The bowling center presented Christian with a bowling pin, for him to collect autographs from everyone, and keep as a souvenir.
Christian is the son of Lori Bruce, of Caraway, and John Bruce, of Horn Lake, MS. He has an older sister, Ashley Calbert, 12. Grandparents are Truman Reames, of Milligan Ridge, and Peggy Fletcher, of Jonesboro.
Christian was born in March of 1996, and was unhealthy from the start. At 6 months of age he only weighed 12 pounds, and was diagnosed with congenital heart failure.
"John and I could see that Christian was developing slowly, and was not up to speed," said Lori Bruce. "He developed a stomach virus and we took him to emergency, at St. Bernard's Hospital. Dr. Stephen Blanchard was on duty, and recognized something was wrong right off. Dr. Jane Sneed, and the cardiologist team, examined him. We took him to Arkansas Children's Hospital, in Little Rock, where he had three sets of open heart corrective surgeries in a 6 month period. Finally they determined that he needed a heart transplant, in order to survive.
"We were put on the donor waiting list, and got our first call in three weeks," Lori Bruce said. "The jet carrying the heart broke down, and didn't make it in time."
"Four days later a young 3-year-old was killed in a car accident in North or South Carolina, and it's heart was donated by family," said Lori Bruce. "After a ten hour surgery, his new heart was beating healthy. We stayed 12 weeks in the hospital waiting for him to be released. We were so thankful for the Ronald McDonald House, as it was wonderful having a place like that to stay, when we needed it. Most of the time we just stayed close by in the hospital waiting room."
"We were so happy to get back home, and see Christian growing stronger each day," said Lori Bruce. "He has no immune system and is limited to what he can do, but he enjoys school and his friends. He goes to Riverside East Elementary, and is in Mrs. Judy Faulkner's room."
"Christian will really be able to use this new computer," said Lori Bruce. "He is just an average student, but has a great desire to learn. This will give him something to do inside and a good base for learning. He will be physically able to do computer work, and now this will open up so many new avenues for him to experience and see. This will make learning fun."
With all the excitement, Christian did not even notice that the second part of his wish, had not arrived. He also wished to go on a helicopter ride. The helicopter, out of Little Rock, scheduled to land at the bowling center and take Christian for a ride, got an emergency call in route, and had to turn around. The helicopter ride will hopefully take place later this month.
Christian will never forget his special eighth birthday party, with a crowd of people, lots of food and presents and a new computer, thanks to the generous people at Make-A-Wish.
The Northeast District is one of the top five chapters in the world, and many volunteers are dedicated to helping make children, like Christian, have their dreams come true.
A national network of more than 25,000 volunteers enable the Make-A-Wish Foundation to serve children with life-threatening medical conditions. The Make-A-Wish motto is,"We grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy." Income and financial status is no factor in the selection of the recipient.
For more information please visit: http://www.wish.org/