Wish Granted For Oak­dale Teen

The Oakdale Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By TERESA HAM­MOND tham­mond@oak­dale­leader.com

Christo­pher Court­ney spent his 13th birth­day a bit dif­fer­ent than the av­er­age teenager. The Oak­dale Ju­nior High eighth grader be­gan his 13th year last Satur­day, flanked by fam­ily and a com­mu­nity which has greatly im­pacted his young life – Make-A-Wish.

On Satur­day, Aug. 19, Christo­pher and his fam­ily were par­tic­i­pants in the an­nual Wish Walk hosted in Sacra­mento. It’s an event, his mom shared, that he wanted to be a part of well be­fore know­ing the great im­pact this not for profit would have on his per­sonal life. Ear­lier this sum­mer, Christo­pher and his fam­ily of eight spent five jam-packed days in Hawaii as guest of the Make-A-Wish Foun­da­tion.

“I want to help kids like me,” Christo­pher said of his fundrais­ing and in­ter­est in the Wish Walk.

“Kids like me,” how­ever, be­gins and ends with Christo­pher’s Wish Kid ti­tle; the 13-year-old lives daily with a neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­or­der not yet di­ag­nosed. Its symp­toms have been iden­ti­fied most closely to that of Hunt­ing­ton’s dis­ease, yet that has been ruled out. Most re­cently he be­came a part of the Un­di­ag­nosed Dis­ease Net­work, UDN, run by the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Health via re­fer­ral from his pri­mary doc­tor at Stan­ford Hos­pi­tal.

“They’re ac­tu­ally do­ing whole

Genome test­ing now,” mom Stephanie Court­ney said, “to test all the genes in the body be­cause they do be­lieve there is an er­ror. They do be­lieve it’s a ge­netic cause.”

Christo­pher is one of six chil­dren in the Court­ney fam­ily. The youngest four Court­ney chil­dren were adopted. Christo­pher and his two younger sib­lings share the same bi­o­log­i­cal mother, which makes the test­ing all the more im­por­tant. The younger two Court­ney chil­dren have not dis­played symp­toms sim­i­lar to their brother.

“They take only the most med­i­cally chal­leng­ing cases, that other places have not been able to di­ag­nose,” Stephanie said of the UDN.

Stan­ford is one of seven univer­si­ties part­nered with the UDN on cases such as Christo­pher’s. Stephanie stated they have a 45 per­cent suc­cess rate.

“They know it’s ge­netic, but they don’t know what,” she said.

For five days in July, how­ever, the Court­ney fam­ily was able to take a break from re­search, test­ing and doc­tor’s ap­point­ments. They were able to place their toes in the sand, play in the ocean, take in some sights and ex­pe­ri­ence first class treat­ment by way of Make-A-Wish.

It was five days filled with firsts for the Oak­dale stu­dent. His first plane ride out of state, first time in a cock­pit, first time to Hawaii, first time drink­ing from a co­conut, first time stay­ing in a ho­tel suite; the list goes on.

“I just can’t say enough about Make-A-Wish,” Stephanie said. “They think of every lit­tle thing, the small­est of de­tails. They have so many kids that want to go to Hawaii, that they ac­tu­ally have a chap­ter there that helps co­or­di­nate all of this.”

The Court­ney’s trip to Oahu, Hawaii in­cluded: a five night stay at the Sher­a­ton Waikiki, a dol­phin ex­pe­ri­ence for Christo­pher and his mom, a hike up Di­a­mond Head and a num­ber of other mem­ory mak­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

“I’ve never been to Hawaii be­fore and I al­ways wanted to,” Christo­pher said of his wish, not­ing the dol­phin ex­pe­ri­ence as his fa­vorite. “I was ner­vous be­cause I thought it was go­ing to be in the ocean at first.”

Once he saw the wade pool and dol­phins, those nerves were quickly at bay. Dur­ing the dol­phin ex­pe­ri­ence, he was able to feed, pet, kiss and ride the dol­phins. It was an ex­pe­ri­ence the rest of the fam­ily was able to wit­ness from pool­side and share in his joy as it unfolded.

“Af­ter every­thing he’s been through and still with the un­cer­tainty … to see him get the wish granted,” Stephanie said of en­joy­ing the mem­o­rable fam­ily va­ca­tion. “Also for our other kids as well, it was just re­ally some­thing spe­cial.”

PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Lo­cal teen Christo­pher Court­ney, far left, with par­ents Chris, Stephanie and his five sib­lings out­fit­ted in cus­tom shirts com­mem­o­rat­ing his Make-A-Wish trip to Oahu, Hawaii.

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