WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors is sponsoring a “Just A Wish Away” cocktail party to benefit Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18.
The party will be at the Clubhouse at Patriot Hills, 19 Clubhouse Lane in Stony Point, N.Y. The non-profit Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley grants the wishes of Hudson Valley children who are suffering with life-threatening medical conditions. Lauren Shields, daughter of Jeanne Shields of Keller Williams Hudson Valley Realty in New City, was a “Wish” recipient and will speak at this year’s event. “Lauren's journey was not an easy one at all, but Make-A-Wish brought such brightness to a time that had been so dark for so long,” her mother Jeanne said. Lauren, now 14, had been a completely healthy child until age eight when she developed viral myocarditis, a rare heart disease. “Basically, she caught a virus that attacked her heart,” Shields said. “It was a one-in-100,000 chance.” Shields was conducting her sales meeting at a Weichert office in Nanuet when she got a call from Lauren’s school. “Lauren was complaining about a swollen belly, but I really didn’t think anything of it at the time,” she recalled. However, an X-ray and ultrasound revealed fluids surrounded Lauren’s heart and she was hospitalized immediately. “She just went into heart failure – her heart was working at only 14 percent. Our lives literally changed overnight.” Lauren spent nine months at Columbia Presbyterian, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital -- a month and a half of which was spent waiting for a new heart. Her condition was continuously declining and at one point she was on full life support. During this time, a hospital staff member contacted Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley. “In the beginning, Lauren was just too weak to talk to them, but they kept in close contact with us, sent her little gifts and were so wonderful about giving us hope,” said Shields. When the donor heart finally arrived, the surgeons were worried it might be too small, but after removing Lauren's old heart ,they saw that it was grossly enlarged. The new one fit perfectly. Following the March 2009 operation, Lauren suffered a stroke while recovering in the hospital. When she was well enough, she entered Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains, and later became an outpatient at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw. “At first, she was confined to a wheelchair and was unable to lift her arms above her head,” her mother said.
Still, Lauren remained positive with a goal of walking through the door of Stony Point Elementary School that September. “She had to use a cane, but she did walk into school!” her mother said. Since Lauren had to spend so much time in her bedroom recovering, her wish was for a complete bedroom make-over. The new animal-themed room now features zebra stripes on the wall, new furniture, a flat screen TV, and even some new clothes. "I had so much fun working with my ‘wish angels’ on my room makeover,” Lauren said. “Now every morning when I wake up, I think of them and I am so grateful." Today, Lauren is healthy, returning to the doctor for heart check-ups every four to five months, and undergoing periodic blood testing. “She’ll be on medications for the rest of her life, which could present other complications later on, but we live in the moment,” her mother said. Lauren recently received an award from the Transplant Recipient International Organization in Long Island for her volunteer efforts. She has spoken at American Heart Association luncheons, and was featured on national television news and even a Japanese TV station.
Last year, Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors raised almost $17,000 for Make-A- Wish Hudson Valley. “This organization has been making a huge difference in the lives of children like Lauren for more than 25 years, and we are so pleased to be able to offer our help,” said CEO Richard Haggerty. Tickets are $60 per person and include a two-hour open bar, three hot food stations, appetizers, appetizers, coffee and dessert, plus a DJ and dancing. For more information about the event, or to purchase tickets, visit the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors website .
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