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Natalie's Wish

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“ Seeing joy and wonder in our daughters' faces was our favorite part. ”


- Heidi, Natalie's Mom

Mother’s intuition told Heidi Sprang that something was not right. That odd spot on the eye of infant daughter Natalie Sprang was unmistakable. “Do you see it?” she would ask family and friends repeatedly. After a few weeks, Heidi’s husband, Jason Sprang, detected it, too. The couple took Natalie to her pediatrician that day. “The doctor said it could be cataracts or a tumor. We thought for sure there was no way it could be a tumor,” Heidi said.

Mother’s intuition told Heidi Sprang that something was not right. That odd spot on the eye of infant daughter Natalie Sprang was unmistakable. “Do you see it?” she would ask family and friends repeatedly. After a few weeks, Heidi’s husband, Jason Sprang, detected it, too. The couple took Natalie to her pediatrician that day. “The doctor said it could be cataracts or a tumor. We thought for sure there was no way it could be a tumor,” Heidi said.

The diagnosis was retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer most commonly affecting young children. The tumor had invaded 75 percent of Natalie’s right eye. The initial fear was that the cancer had spread to her brain. Thankfully, it did not, but the eye could not be saved. Just over a week after her cancer diagnosis, Natalie’s eye was removed. 

Fortunately, there was no need for radiation or chemotherapy. Not long after Natalie’s eye-removal surgery, she was fitted with a prosthetic lens for her eye socket and a pair of glasses to protect her “good” eye, Heidi said.

Now 3 years old, Natalie endures exploratory surgery and hour-long MRIs every three months to scan for new tumor development in the right eye socket, left eye and brain.

The Sprangs were surprised to learn [Make-A-Wish Wisconsin] would consider Natalie. “I thought Make-A-Wish was designed to grant wishes to children who were terminal—only to find out that’s not what they are about. They’re about any child who had to go through a life-threatening illness … because of all they had to go through, they want to help every child out. It’s a fantastic organization,” Jason said.

 “If you were to ask me what my biggest nightmare in life would be, (Natalie’s diagnosis) would be it … it was very scary,” Heidi said. The long weeks waiting to hear if the cancer had spread to Natalie’s brain was “very rough. A lot of sleepless nights. A lot of crying,” Heidi said. 

Jason added, “It was our faith that got us through. And a lot of support. That kind of tragedy brings something out in people. They just come together … family, everybody … just an outpouring.”

The Sprangs are especially grateful for the granting of Natalie’s wish, and what it means to them as parents. “When you are in (a difficult situation) you don’t realize how much of a break you need,” Heidi said.

- (Maureen Boylan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sept. 6, 2014)

Natalie’s wish to go to Walt Disney World® Resort gave Natalie and her family a much needed break from medical worries, giving them hope, strength and joy. Natalie loved meeting the Disney princesses, going on rides and staying at Give Kids The World Village. Jason and Heidi said their favorite part was seeing the joy and wonder on their daughters’ faces.

"Our favorite part was seeing the joy and wonder on our children's faces." ”

— Heidi & Jason, Natalie's Parents

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