It was a very exciting day for Bryn, the 6-year-old daughter of Travis and Nicole Fuechtmann of Little Falls when her new play set was installed in the family’s backyard, May 22.
The play set was from Make A Wish — a non-profit organization, which arranges experiences (wishes) for children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Bryn and her younger sister, Vivian, 3, both have cystic fibrosis (CF). It’s a genetic disease which causes mucus to build up in the lungs, pancreas and other organs.
Mucus that gets built up in the lungs also clogs the airways and traps bacteria, which can lead to “infections, extensive lung damage and eventually, respiratory failure,” according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
In addition, the mucus also keeps digestive enzymes from releasing into the body to break down food and absorb nutrients.
Nicole said neither she or her husband were aware that they are both carriers of a defective CF gene. Had only one of them had the mutation, Bryn or Vivian would not have had CF, she said.
“I went back for the one week check up after Bryn was born and Dr. Lisa Germscheid said Bryn had been flagged for CF,” Nicole said.
The family was directed to the University of Minnesota Health Pediatric Specialty Care Discovery Clinic in Minneapolis for further testing. CF was confirmed.
Nicole and Travis knew there was a one in four chance for any future children they had to have CF. Their son, Kade, 8, through the luck of the draw, does not have CF, Fuechtmann said.
“We decided to roll the dice and had CF for a second time,” she said.
Because of the risk of the girls contracting illnesses from other people, especially in the winter months, the family mainly stays home.
Since most families with a child who receives a wish from the Make A Wish Foundation go on vacations, the Fuechtmanns didn’t jump at the opportunity at first when they learned Bryn had a wish.
Because of Bryn’s and Vivian’s conditions, traveling presents a real challenge. It also requires the girls seeing their specialist, Dr. Terri Laguna at the Discovery Clinic ahead of time and getting the girls cleared for travel. In addition, the family has to bring along a lot of extra gear and medications.
It would also be very difficult for the girls if they became sick while the family was on vacation with their doctor being so far away, Nicole said.
Eventually it dawned on the family that Bryn’s wish could be spent on a new play set. Previously, the girls had spent a lot of time playing at the play set at the family’s old home.
“When we sold our house down the road and moved here, they were pretty bummed about that. We spoke with Bryn to see if she wanted to use her wish for a new play set and she said yes, she wanted a play set,” Nicole said.
Laguna arranged for the Make A Wish team to meet with the family.
“We met with the family and had Bryn go through the book of what she wanted on her play set,” Wish Granter Karen Umland said.
Some of the things Bryn asked for were a tunnel slide, a glider and several swings.
The family, but especially Bryn, was very excited when the play set was installed. It is not every day a child gets their very own play set and it is something that will last for years, Nicole said.
It’s also nice that she, along with Vivian, will have a private play set to play on. It makes less for their parents to worry about.
Living with CF is not easy for either girl, but at the same time, they don’t know anything different. Since Bryn was born, she’s already had several surgeries, mainly to remove pollen from her sinuses.
She has vest treatments twice a day, which helps to loosen the mucus and clear the airways. Bryn also takes enzymes to help her digest the food and visits the Discover Clinic four times a year to ensure she is staying healthy.
Last year, Bryn started kindergarten at the Mary of Lourdes Elementary School in Little Falls.
“It was very exciting and nerve wrecking at the same time. I teach, so I know the germ encounters she will have at school. When we chose Mary of Lourdes, we had that in the back of our minds because we knew they had a lower population,” she said.
Nicole is second grade teacher at Pine Meadow Elementary School in Sartell.
Seeing Bryn’s smile when she received her play set is one of the reasons Umland continues to grant wishes. She has been a volunteer wish granter for 12 years and mainly covers the area from Central Minnesota and north to the Canadian border.
Although wish granters are supposed to grant three wishes a year, Umland and other wish granters, grant about 12-15 wishes a year, since there aren’t enough volunteer wish granters, she said.
“You see a lot of happy faces, a lot of smiles and that’s the reason I stay in it. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes for these kids, because it gives them something to look forward to,” Umland said.