Study: Granting wishes of children with illnesses may impact health

When children living with a serious illness are granted wishes, a new study finds not only does it give the kids new hope but that it might impact their health, too. 

FOX 2's Jay Towers just returned from his trip to Disney World in Orlando with Jay's Juniors. Every year, Jay's Juniors takes kids with chronic or terminal illnesses and their entire families on the all-expense paid vacation. 

On this trip, Jay and the medical staff couldn't help but notice a transformation with the young patients.  As they were away from the hospital and distracted by Disney, there was new energy and hopeful joy. Turns out these experiences give kids more than just hope. 

Take, for example, Cimone Stills. A year ago, she was struggling daily with severe epilepsy.

"I think Cimone was at - we all were - at a place of hopelessness," says her mother.

"She had lots of daily seizures, they were really impacting her life. She had a hard time staying in school. She had a hard time learning. She had a hard time just doing anything," says Dr. Anup Patel at Nationwide Children's Hospital. 

But so much changed when Cimone was granted her wish: to go to Paris. While Cimone had the time of her life, her mom noticed a big change. 

"When we went on the trip she had no seizures, and I cannot explain it," she says.

"Ever since I left Paris, I feel like there's always been a smile on my face," Cimone says. Not only was she happier, but her health actually improved. 

Dr. Patel says they've actually been able to get rid of some of her treatments. He's thrilled with Cimone's progress and saw similar improvements in other patients who were granted wishes. 

"I started noticing that these kids were happier. They were more engaged in their treatment. They were having less seizures. They were doing better. And I started to get the question on, is there something more here?" he says.

So he studied more than 1,000 seriously ill children and found that those granted wishes were more than twice as likely to have fewer hospital stays and reduced healthcare costs over a two year period. 

"You, A: Give a great experience. You, B: Get to provide this potential savings down the road," Dr. Patel says.

For Cimone, it was priceless. 

"I have my daughter back. There's no amount of money that you can put on that."

"Just don't give up hope. There's always room for change and just keep pushing through and fighting through cause it gets better," says Cimone. 

And Jay will tell you, the joy is felt not just by the kids but by everyone around them. 

While a wish or a trip is not a cure, of course, researchers say more work needs to be done to learn why whishes have a positive impact on health and to learn more about the power of hope.