JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Every parent thinks their child is one-in-a-million—unique and special in every way. But, that's not what you want to hear if suddenly they're told they have a life-threatening illness.
Unfortunately, that's been the reality of a Greene County family.
Josh and April Laws are the parents of two girls: Analeigh and Ripleigh. Just after Ripleigh was born, Analeigh started having problems.
"She would get really red in the face," Kathy Rowe, Analeigh's kindergarten teacher at Crowley's Ridge Academy said. "She's smart. She's very, very gifted."
"She started having a rash on her face," April, Analeigh's mother, said. The rash kept getting worse.
"They told us she was allergic," Josh, Analeigh's father said. No one, including several doctors, knew what it was.
"She did not feel good," April said.
"Lots of muscle weakness," Josh said. "She couldn't climb stairs. She couldn't open doorknobs."
Finally, a trip to Arkansas Children's hospital revealed a diagnosis.
"Juvenile dermatomyositis. Derm is skin. Myo is muscle and citis is inflammation," April said, referring to a specialist's diagnosis.
It's a disease that affects only one child in a million—and the rash on her face a sign of something far more serious inside.
"This disease attacks muscles and skin," April said. "So, it was attacking any and every muscle in her body."
If not stopped, it could attack her main muscle: her heart. The very thought causes Dad to wipe his eyes.
"Sorry," Josh said, remembering the time when both he and his wife first received Analeigh's diagnosis.
The fight of Analeigh's life began with treatment similar to that of a cancer patient.
"I cried the whole whole drive home from Little Rock," April said.
"To have her go through these treatments, having to get hooked up to IV's for two days, it was hard. Her going through it," Josh said. "You could just see it on her face."
"When it got really bad, she would say she just didn't want to live anymore. She said that she wanted to go to heaven and be with God so she didn't have to hurt anymore," April said. "That breaks a parent's heart."
Just when life was so difficult came the best news of all.
"Your wish has been granted on behalf of Jonesboro Public Schools and the Make a Wish Foundation," said Misty Doyle, MicroSociety Magnet school principal. "You get to go to Disney World."
"She went there thinking that she was going to see a play about Elsa from Frozen," April said. "It was amazing! It was a trip we all needed more than we realized. Since she's been diagnosed, we've been limited on taking off and going anywhere. So, it was amazing to get to go anywhere."
"To see the smile on my daughter's face, to enjoy it and actually get out and do things, she could do or wanted to… there's nothing else like it," Josh said.
"We went up into a mountain and the train track was broken," Analeigh said describing a roller coaster ride at Disney. "Then we were going backwards really fast!"
"The one week down at Disney, that was the best time of our lives," Josh said.
Analeigh's struggles are far from over. For the rest of her life, she will have to be constantly protected from the sun.
Sunlight causes the disease to flare up. Only brief outings in the sun are allowed, and then she has to be all covered up.
She gets a chemo shot every Friday that her parents have learned how to administer at home.
But, sometimes the best medicine is a wish.
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