Above: Clara, 7, pretends to be a sailor in her new wooden play structure, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Story and photos by Christine MacIntyre
Seven-year-old Clara Peterson of Grass Lake was diagnosed with end stage kidney disease. After months of dialysis and lengthy hospital stays, Clara and her parents Don and Sharyn Peterson, along with her nine siblings, prayed to find a kidney donor.
On Christmas Day 2019, their prayers were answered – they had a donor. On December 26, 2019, just one day after Christmas, Clara received the transplant.
“Our prayers were answered; it was a miracle,” says Don and Sharyn.
While 2020 has been a strange year for everyone, Clara is blessed to have her wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. On June 24, 2020, Clara’s wish for a large playset in the shape of a boat came true. Make-A-Wish delivered the wooden play structure to her backyard at 9:30 a.m. and was done setting it up after only about an hour.
Clara, 7, is more than excited about her wish come true.
“I was so impressed with how quickly they set it up,” said Sharyn.
Clara’s initial wish was to have pet pigs; however, she changed her mind and wished for the boat shaped wooden play structure instead.
“I was thinking ‘no way’,” said Sharyn of Clara’s initial wish. “I’m glad she changed her mind.”
Clara says, “I’m so happy and surprised,” regarding her wish come true. Don and Sharyn worked hard to make the day special for Clara. They turned it into a celebration by inviting family, friends, and neighbors.
“We are having food later, as well as a treasure hunt. The kids will hunt for hidden keys and will each receive a treasure chest with a surprise inside,” Sharyn noted. (More below)
Clara’s siblings and dad wore “Make-A-Wish” shirts; Clara wore a blue and white sailor dress and matching sailor hat. The kids played pirates with pirate hats, eye patches, and inflatable swords. The boat, Clara’s wish, served as their pirate ship.
Since the transplant, Clara has been under close surveillance of her medical team to ensure her body’s acceptance of the kidney and to keep up to date on lab work. She will take medicine for the rest of her life according to her mom. However, the frequency of doctor visits has dwindled from once a week to once a month. After the one-year mark, they lessen to once every three months.
Sharyn says Clara was diagnosed in April 2019 after questions arose from symptoms such as stomach pain.
From left: Mary, Conner, Jared, Lily, Don (holding Clara), Joshua, Samuel, and Sharyn (holding Henry).
“She had a couple bladder infections a couple years prior. At that point, they did an ultra-sound and determined everything was fine.” However, the stomach issues continued and prompted another ultra-sound and lab work, which led to the diagnosis – neither kidney was functioning properly.
“We are just so thankful her wish was able to be fulfilled,” says Sharyn.
Surrounded by her siblings, parents, and friends, Clara’s kind and youthful spirit glowed as she sat on her new swing set and climbed aboard her boat structure. The excitement and gratitude of the Peterson family was evident.