ROCKINGHAM — Thirteen-year-old Kiah Brown will swim with dolphins in Hawaii and attend an authentic luau this summer when the Make-a-Wish Foundation brings her dreams to life.
Kiah, a Rohanen Middle School student, got sick in 2011 and was diagnosed a year later with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine. Kiah’s disease only affects her colon, and her mom, Charlessa Brown, said she’s had four surgeries already because of it. Doctors finally removed all but 2 centimeters of Kiah’s colon in February, said Brown.
Kiah stopped eating and lost 11 pounds during her first month in the University of North Carolina Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill, but after stints with chemotherapy and a regimen of steroids, she gained that weight back, said her mother.
“Altogether, she spent 20 weeks in 2012 in the hospital in Chapel Hill including a lot of holidays,” said Brown. “She’s been in and out of school, and this past year she’s been homebound twice. But she still kept her grades up, making Beta Club and the cheer team and joining the math club.”
Ulcerative colitis is known as an auto-immune disease. Kiah’s immune system treated her colon as a foreign object and began rejecting it, Brown said, similar to the body’s rejection of a donor organ after a transplant.
“She was very active until she got sick,” Brown said, proudly listing Kiah’s athletic achievements.
Kiah was a 2010 state champion in gymnastics double-mini, she played soccer for four years, played baseball, took dance for three years and was a recreational cheerleader, said Brown, who coached her daughter’s cheer squad in the Hamlet Junior Football League for seven years.
Kiah also came in second in the Grand Majestic pageant held in Fayetteville.
“She’s done a lot,” said Brown.
About once every 38 minutes, the Make-a-Wish Foundation grants a child with a life-threatening medical condition a chance to see his or her dream come true.
Last October, Kiah and her mother decided to fill out an application for the Make-A-Wish Foundation while she was still in the hospital. Initially, Kiah’s two wishes were to go to Hollywood and meet Adam Sandler and to go to Hawaii and swim with the dolphins.
“He’s my favorite actor,” Kiah said of Sandler. “I’ve watched all his movies. That’s actually where I got the idea to swim with the dolphins, from his movies ‘50 First Dates’ and ‘Just Go With It.’”
Kiah and her mom, along with Make-A-Wish, finally decided on going to the Aloha State from Aug. 6-12 so Kiah could swim with the dolphins.
Her time in Hawaii won’t only be spent swimming. The foundation will provide snorkeling, a luau with a roast pig and all the trimmings and free access to a water park.
Kiah said she’s excited about the trip just like anyone else would be. Her mother is just grateful to have Kiah still here.
“Right now, everything seems to be going well,” Brown said.
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-997-3111, ext. 18.