Whenever Anna May was heading off to another procedure to treat her life-threatening illness, she was always listening to one song: “Wagon Wheel” by country star Darius Rucker. The lyrics could brighten her spirits and give her hope; and now, thanks to children’s charity Star Wishes for Children, Anna has renewed hope after bonding with the singer and hearing the song live on her granted wish trip.
“We can’t thank all the hard working people at Star Wishes for Children, as well as all of the generous sponsors, enough!” said Julia May, Anna’s mom. “Thank you Star Wishes for Children for allowing Anna to not think about doctors, hospitals and challenges for a few wonderful days.”
Diagnosed with a rare disease in 2014, Anna has been struggling with the illness ever since. Concerns started when the then 18-year-old suddenly began experiencing severe muscle weakness that affected only one side of her body and lost the ability to speak normally. Doctors performed a CAT scan and discovered “patches” of gray shadows in Anna’s brain. Days later, the teen was diagnosed with moyamoya disease, a life-threatening disorder caused by narrowing and blocked arteries at the base of the brain.
By the time Anna’s condition was discovered, she had already suffered two minor strokes and needed surgery immediately. Anna had the first of her two eight-hour surgeries within five days of diagnosis and the second a week after the first. Anna continues to receive specialized therapy but, as Moyamoya is a progressive and incurable disease, she will need monitoring for the rest of her life.
Yet despite her harrowing journey, Anna has remained incredibly positive. During her stay in the hospital, the teen started making blankets and pillows she gives to other hospitalized children. She also played “Wagon Wheel” as much as possible. Star Wishes for Children knew that hearing the song live and meeting the man behind the music would give Anna continued hope to carry on with her fight.
The children’s charity sent Anna and the May family on a wish trip to meet Darius Rucker, sit VIP for his concert, and explore the beautiful New Hampshire surroundings. Anna met Mr. Rucker before his concert and spent time bonding. The family said he was extremely humbled by Anna’s story and even wore her Moyamoya bracelet during the concert.
“Anna and Darius talked like he was our next door neighbor,” recalls her mother Julia May. “He was very moved when Anna told him about her struggles with Moyamoya, the brain surgeries, seizures and endless tests. She told him how the song “Wagon Wheel” gave her a lift when she needed it most, especially the first hospital stay when no one knew what was wrong with her.”
After the concert, Anna and her family spent a few more days in the lovely state, exploring the local and beautiful landscape.
“We were treated like royalty by so many people,” adds May. “This trip to New Hampshire was one that we will never forget and one that will give us strength in the dark days. Star Wishes for Children does really great work.”
On behalf of Anna and her family, Star Wishes for Children would like to thank all the sponsors who helped make her dream come true: Darius Rucker, The Windrifter Resort, Mise en Place, Castle in the Clouds, Sandy Point Restaurant, Patrick’s Pub & Eatery, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.