Scoop-a-Thon dishes up sweet treats – and a big surprise for boy battling sickle cell disease

August 15, 2023
A boy in a blue Make a Wish t-shirt looks at a woman who is gesturing as she talks to him. Another woman is holding a microphone.
Sickle cell specialist Dr. Christina Abrams, left, and the president and CEO of Make-A-Wish S.C., Misty Farmer, talk with Yuri. The 9-year-old boy didn't know that something much bigger than ice cream was coming his way. Photo provided

The MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital joined forces with Make-A-Wish South Carolina and national partner, Culver's, to host a special event with the purpose of increasing both awareness and fundraising efforts for sickle cell disease. 

Named the "Scoop-a-Thon," the ice cream event took place at the Charleston Medical District Greenway, where several “wish kids” and additional attendees were given the exciting opportunity to gather, enjoy a cool break and serve their community with a sweet treat.

Guest of honor, 9-year-old patient Yuri, is a brave boy who was completely surprised as his wish to visit Disney World was granted during the event. 

So, what exactly is sickle cell disease, and why are these children’s wishes so special and important to MUSC? Clinical director of the pediatric sickle cell clinic, Christina Abrams, M.D., explained that sickle cell disease is a debilitating condition that has a direct effect on the red blood cells and their level of fragility. 

This means that red blood cells can break apart and die more easily, due to being rigid and crescent-shaped, sometimes resulting in unbearable levels of pain. Patients with sickle cell disease are at increased risk for stroke and can experience life-threatening lung infections known as acute chest syndrome.

While most of Abrams' days are spent focused on patient care, she was able to break away from the hospital in order to share with her patient Yuri that his very wish to visit Disney World had been granted, which wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Make-A-Wish S.C. 

Abrams also explained the impact of wishes on patients. “It is so important for their mental health and for their quality of life. Getting them to feel as typical as you can for a child who does have an illness that requires them to come to the hospital often for well-checks, hospitalizations or ER visits is really important because they want to feel like a kid like all of their other friends,” Abrams said.

Currently, 402 children in South Carolina are waiting for wishes. Five types of wishes exist for patients to choose from: to go, to be, to have, to meet and to give.

According to the president and CEO of Make-A-Wish S.C., Misty Farmer, the average waittime to get a single patient’s wish granted can range from 12 to 18 months, but Yuri has been waiting since the peak of the COVID pandemic. Farmer is grateful for the partnership with MUSC Health.

“Quite literally, our mission would not exist if it weren’t for Shawn Jenkins and our children's hospital partners. Every wish that we grant starts with a referral from a medical care team, so it's quite a partnership that has to happen for our work to be true,” Farmer said. 

Trips and wishes are essential in terms of what they provide to these patients, especially considering the tough battles they’ve faced with their illnesses. Abrams said the mental strain and toll that can have on these pediatric patients and their caregivers can be tough, but the beauty of Make-A-Wish S.C.’s strong relationship with the SJCH is that it provides hope, joy and fun.

Yuri packed, ready to leave for Disney World, an experience that will bring him much joy after a rough battle with the disease. He is looking forward to swimming in the pool and meeting his favorite character, Goofy. His mother is excited for him to be able to go back to school and have something fun to tell his classmates. 

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