EVANSTON — Young Austin Lowham and his family are headed to Disneyworld in Orlando, thanks to Make-a-Wish Wyoming. Austin, his sister Hadlee, parents Tyrell and Chase, and a large extended family were on hand for a Make-a-Wish reveal celebration on Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Uinta County Library.
Austin, who celebrated his third birthday on Jan. 10, was Uinta County’s first baby of the new year in 2017. About a month to six weeks after his birth, it was discovered Austin had a heart murmur. That discovery led to a procedure to repair his aorta and ultimately a diagnosis of Alagille Syndrome, a genetic disorder that primarily affects the heart and liver but can also impact the brain, kidneys, blood vessels, skeleton and other bodily systems.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine website, Alagille Syndrome has an estimated prevalence of 1 in 70,000 newborns. In approximately 30-50% of cases, a mutated gene is inherited from an affected parent. The remainder of the cases, like Austin’s, result from spontaneous genetic mutations. Symptoms associated with the disorder can be extremely mild and even go completely unnoticed. At other times, the effects are severe.
One of the most common problems associated with Alagille Syndrome is liver damage and scarring due to abnormalities in the bile ducts. Austin’s liver problems required a liver transplant in September of 2018.
Austin and his family have been through a lot in the three years since his birth, but for a week at the end of January and early February they hope to get a brief respite from their worries and enjoy their family vacation to Florida.
Make-a-Wish Wyoming volunteer Amy Kelly was on hand at the reveal celebration to share a bit of information about the Lowhams’ trip, which will include a stay at the Give Kids the World Village. The village is described on their website as an “84-acre, nonprofit ‘storybook’ resort in central Florida. Here, children with critical illnesses and their families are treated to week-long, cost-free vacations.”
The village is designed to support children and their families, with on-site medical staff and specific accommodations to meet the needs of children with a broad spectrum of illnesses. A stay at the village includes accommodations, meals, theme park tickets, transportation, entertainment and more.
Make-a-Wish grants wishes to children between the ages of 2-1/2 and 18 who have been diagnosed with critical illnesses and are recommended for the program by a healthcare professional. Kelly said sometimes it’s a bit more challenging to determine what a child’s wish is when they’re as young as Austin, but in his case he made known his affection for elephants, Mickey Mouse, Nemo and Moana, so the Disney resorts in Florida were an obvious choice.
For the Lowhams, it will be their first visit to Disneyworld and the first plane voyage for dad Chase and kids Austin and Hadlee. Mom Tyrell said they’re extremely grateful to Make-a-Wish. “We’re very thankful. It’s going to be great to have time to just focus on being together as a family and get a break from worrying about medical bills and everything else.”