BROOKVILLE — Children facing a debilitating illness often pick a trip to Disney World or meeting their celebrity idol when receiving a gift from Make-A-Wish.
A little Brookville girl’s wish, though, was just to have a swingset for summer.
Anna Songer’s health issues began the day she was born, when she was unresponsive and not breathing, her mother, Lindsay Songer, said. Anna spent seven days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
At 9 months old, she was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid in the brain causes the head to enlarge, at times causing brain damage. Anna had a cerebral shunt placed for four years.
In summer of last year, Anna was also diagnosed with Chiari malformation, Songer said, a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal.
Her 4-year-old has had five brain surgeries total, Songer says.
The Songer family’s troubles don’t end there. Her husband, Dustin, was diagnosed with brain cancer three years ago, and is on hospice care.
The second week of April, Make-A-Wish of Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia gave Anna her brand-new dream swingset, with a cake, balloons and backyard party at home.
“She hasn’t had a lot of happy times as a kid,” Songer said. “It was kind of a wish for Dustin, too, to see her get this and play on it.”
The swingset is equipped with a tire swing, sandbox, monkey bar, slide, rock climbing and a couple other quirks.
Anna goes back to Children’s Hospital in May, when she will have an MRI done to see if her last surgery was a success, Songer said. Right now, incredibly, she is showing no indication that it wasn’t.
“We could never afford a swingset,” Songer says. “She’s doing so good now, and can look forward to a lot of summer days outside, just being a kid.”
Songer says the family always thought Make-A-Wish was for children with certain conditions or circumstances, so when the organization insisited on helping Anna, they were very grateful.
“It’s overwhelming to know they would do something so special for her,” she said. “It has made Dustin and I so happy. Just to see your child happy is the icing on the cake.”
The Songers not only want to spread awareness for Make-A-Wish and its generosity, but awareness of child illnesses that can go undetected. Through their many trips to the hospital, they met many other families and people going through similar things.
“Chiari is very rare, but it’s becoming much more common,” she said. “It’s great to spread awareness for what Anna has had.”
Despite two extremely challenging circumstances in the Songer household, there is no point in “being negative,” she says.
“Your kids look to you to be their strength,” Songer said. “We just kind of stay positive, and make the most of every day.”