Make-A-Wish Foundation has granted over 280,000 wishes since it was founded in 1980. Some of the most popular requests made by children with life-threatening or even terminal illnesses are meeting famous athletes, taking a family trip, or planning a visit to Disneyland to meet Mickey and the gang.
What did five-year-old Jake Hamre from Minnesota want with his wish?
A hot tub.
That’s right. Jake just wanted a place where he could enjoy warm water for a few hours during the week.
Jake Hamre, who is almost six, had been diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease 18 months previously--a very rare illness with varying degrees of severity. It used to be difficult to diagnose, meaning that his parents (Brock and Becky) didn’t actually know what was wrong for the first few years of his life. When the test became available (a blood test that uses genomic sequencing to check for the condition), the family finally got an answer.
Brock and Becky said that Jake didn’t seem to reach normal milestones like crawling or walking. After taking Jake to see multiple doctors and getting tested for almost everything, he was finally diagnosed in the summer of 2012 at the Mayo clinic.
As far as severity of the illness goes, Jake falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. The disease affects the mitochondria in a person’s cells which means they aren’t producing sufficient energy for normal body functions. Mild cases could mean a person battles constant fatigue; in extreme cases, an infant may fail to thrive.
Jake’s symptoms included delayed growth, low muscle tone, difficulty holding his eyes open, as well as limited verbal skills. He stands now with the aid of a walker.
Jake is known as a good-natured boy with a positive attitude. He gets especially excited when someone mentions his hot tub.
The family first got in touch with the foundation in February 2013 and then heard the wish would be granted in mid-summer. Part of making the wish a reality was converting the family’s porch into a hot tub room. An insulation contractor did work in the room for free; a local man also installed tile at no cost. The installation was completed a few days before Christmas in December of 2013 when the tub was delivered, filled with water, and ready to use.
Jake’s dad Brock says that his son “absolutely loves the water.” Being in the water creates an opportunity to play while simultaneously strengthening his muscles--he’ll spend several hours per week playing in the warm water. Having the hot tub at home enables him to participate in water therapy more often because he doesn’t have to travel to get to a pool.
According to his parents, Jake has already seen significant improvement. He has already developed the strength to hold himself up, whereas before he couldn’t even hold his face out of the water. He can even do modified water pull-ups on a bar installed in the hot tub. He has a lot of fun playing in the water with his older brother, Max.
Physical therapy is currently Jake’s only option as there is no cure or treatment for his illness yet. The family has faith that day is coming soon but for now, the Make-A-Wish hot tub has helped improve his day to day life.