This is the story of Ondrej (Age 5), a brave Make-A-Wish child, who is living with Hypoplastic Left-Heart Syndrome. His wish was to train a killer-whale.
Ondrej was born in March 2009 with a heart condition called Hypoplastic Left- Heart Syndrome. At just 2 days old his parents took the agonising decision for him to have open heart surgery to save his life. It was a very high risk operation however Ondrej proved to be a very strong little boy. He survived however his life was still at risk.
Ondrej’s first Christmas was spent fighting for his life in intensive care, after his second operation open heart surgery. After this surgery he was very sick but after a couple of months he improved and he started to enjoy a life that was as normal as possible. His third open heart surgery came after he turned 4 years old in May 2013.
The prognosis for children with this syndrome is still not clear. Two out of four children don´t reach their adulthood and for those that do, doctors still don't know how long they can survive without a complete heart transplant. Despite this prognosis, Ondrej and his family enjoy every minute of their life together.
In October 2013, Ondrej's family was made aware of Make-A-Wish. Ireland, who grant wishes for children who have life-threatening conditions. At the time Ondrej was fascinated with the movie "Free Willy" and so his family applied to MakeA-Wish for him to train a killer whale.
In June 2014, Paul and Tara volunteers from Make-A-Wish went to meet Ondrej who then shared his story with Smurfit Kappa. With the financial support of the Smurfit Kappa Foundation, this allowed Make-A-Wish to grant Ondrej's trip to Orlando, Florida to train a killer whale.
In November 2014, Ondrej and his family travelled to Orlando and on the 17th, Ondrej´s wish to train a killer whale came true! The whales name was Malia (this name means "The Gift from God"). Ondrey's mother said "It was the nicest moment ever when I saw my son so happy and joyful. I am very proud of him that he did it. He was absolutely brilliant when he trained Malia, showing her how to turn, kiss him, say yes/no, waving, splashing and shaking with her tongue and making bubbles. I would like to thank everyone who donated to the brilliant Make-A-Wish Foundation. ".