For the next week, 6-year-old Zackary McGowan of Mebane will not have to see a doctor or worry about hospital visits. He will simply be able to be a kid.
Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Zackary and his family will be traveling to Disney World to forget about doctors and pain medication for a little while. The Foundation grants the wishes of children from age 2 1/2 to 17 with life-threatening illnesses.
Zackary has neurofibromatosis, a genetically inherited disease causing tumors at the end of every nerve in his body, which affects the growth and development of neural cell tissues. Diagnosed at two months old, Zackary inherited the disease from his father, Scott, who discovered he had the disease when he was 12.
With no cure and little treatment, Zackary suffers from an underdeveloped brain, continuous loss of eye sight, headaches, learning disabilities, decaying teeth, memory loss and constant pain.
“It feels like a sharp needle jabbing you all the time,” Scott said.
Zackary deals with the pain by taking Tylenol with codeine.
But Zackary is not thinking about the pain right now. All he is thinking about is his dream of meeting Buzz Lightyear.
After three years of getting approval from doctors for Zackary to fly on an airplane, he is now getting his wish of going to Disney World through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“The doctor said it was a good idea because of the severity of his illness,” Scott said.
The whole family, including Zackary’s three siblings, Regina, Emily-Ann and Dominick will be taking the trip.
The McGowans will be picked up in a limousine early Monday morning and fly to Orlando, Fla. They will stay at the Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee. There, they will stay in their own villa, with free access to the parks and rides in Orlando. The trip is completely paid for by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“I want to go see Buzz Lightyear,” Zackary said with a big smile. “I don’t want to stay here and play in my backyard.”
And for the next week, he won’t have to.
“It’s just a wonderful place,” Scott said.
The McGowan family receives disability money for Scott but not for Zackary. Because Scptt was unable to work when Zackary was born, Zackary cannot receive disability funds. Before the effects of his disease really began to impair him, Scott used to manage four restaurants and Patsy, who can no longer work because she stays at home caring for Scott and Zackary, used to work at a post office.
Patsy drives to Durham at least two to three times a week for Scott and Zackary’s appointments because Scott is unable to drive. Zackary sees a neurofibromatosis specialist at Duke Children’s Hospital.
At home, Zackary enjoys basketball and plays on the Mebane Tar Heels team. Even though his mental formation is slower, “he’s really good at guarding,” Patsy said.
Zackary’s life expectancy is “unpredictable” according to his doctors. He could live to be an adult or not make it through childhood.
The McGowans are optimistic, though. In 2002, Scott was told he only had six more months to live.
“I showed them different,” he said.
He continued, “We try to live on a daily basis; we try to enjoy life as much as possible. Life is so short anyways, we try to enjoy being a family.”
This includes giving Zackary his wish to visit one of the most magical places a child will ever experience.
“We try to make Zackary’s life as full as we can,” Scott said. “When people tell him he can’t do it, we tell him he can.”
According to Scott and Patsy, donations for Make-A-Wish are very low right now and any contribution to the foundation is appreciated.