Soon to be eighteen-year-old Taylor Renfro had already faced more obstacles in her first year of life than most will encounter during the course of an an entire lifetime. Born with heart issues, she had to undergo a heart transplant procedure at just four months of age. To make matters worse, the anti-rejection medications that she was prescribed severely damaged her immune system, making her more susceptible to diseases, including cancer.
At age nine, Renfro was diagnosed with lymphoma. Luckily, her particular form of lymphoma was very treatable, and with chemotherapy she was able to put it into remission within just a few months’ time. The threat of another cancer diagnosis is always present, however, as is the certainty of another transplant procedure at some point down the road.
But right now the Whitley County High School junior isn’t worried about any of that. She’s doing well, and she’s about to be doing a whole lot better thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Riptides Pool and Spas of Corbin, who are teaming up to give Renfro her very own pool just days before her birthday on June 5.
“A social worker from the cardiology office had mentioned it to us,” explained Renfro’s mother, Michelle Fields. “They sent in the referral telling us that children who had had transplants, as well as children with cancer, were eligible for Make-A-Wish.”
Once Make-A-Wish received the referral from Renfro’s cardiology office (she has to keep regular appointments to ensure her heart is still doing its job), the foundation set about confirming everything, and later sent volunteers to meet with the family.
“Originally, when they reached out to us Taylor wanted to do a Disney cruise,” Fields said. “But as time went on, and we started getting closer to her birthday, she decided that she wanted to have a pool party. She ended up going with the pool option because she could use it to have a party for her eighteenth birthday, but also because it will allow the special people in her life to all come together and be included.”
The pool will provide a much-welcomed reprieve for Renfro and her immediate family, especially after the stress of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked about the concerns she has had for her daughter’s well-being during this difficult time, considering her compromised immune system, Fields said, “On one hand, we’re kind of used to it. We have always had to be careful around other people who may be sick, and growing up she has always practiced good hygiene. But then again, you are always holding your breath, because you just never know what could happen.”
“I didn’t go through almost 18 years of life with her, and all that she’s been through, to lose her to this virus, though,” Fields added. “She’s kind of been locked away recently, and we have avoided crowded places. The past month has been hard.”
Katie Ferrell, Communications Manager for Make-A-Wish Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, said it is always a pleasure to help give something positive to young people who have faced, or are facing, life-threatening situations.
“One misconception is that we only grant wishes for children who are terminally ill,” Ferrell said. “But Make-A-Wish actually grants wishes for many children with critical illnesses. Most of those kids go on to recover, and anyone can refer a child to receive a wish.”
Ferrell went on to explain that, after a vetting process, Make-A-Wish will reach out to the child’s family, and find out what their “one true, heartfelt” wish is. “It could be a trip, a meeting, to be something or to have something,” she said. “Kids have wished for just about everything you could think of. Each one is different. Each one is unique.”
Ferrell said that, in Renfro’s case, her wish ended up being to have a pool in place at her house by the time she turns eighteen early next month. “Our goal is to get it installed by that day,” she assured.
When asked what it feels like to play a role in making these wishes come true, Ferrell said, “Wishes are powerful. They give kids hope so that they can look forward to tomorrow. These wishes can allow kids to focus on just being kids. They can forget about treatments and procedures for a while, and seeing their reactions never gets old.”
As for where Riptides Pool and Spas fits into this equation, DeAnna Fuston, who owns the Corbin store along with her husband, Danny, said, “When Make-A-Wish reached out to us we were so happy to help this local teenager’s wish come true. It is something that is dear to our hearts, because we have lost several people in our family to this cruel disease.”
“We have been working with Make-A-Wish to get everything that the girl wants,” Fuston continued. “This will be a 24-foot round pool, and will include the filter, pump, solar and winter covers, a maintenance kit and chemicals for three months. Everything is valued at approximately $5,600, but Make-A-Wish is paying for the pool at cost. There is no markup on it at all. The electrician is also providing his time at no cost in order to hook everything up.”
Finally, as for her own personal feelings on getting a pool, Renfro herself said that she feels this will be a very good thing for herself and her family. She can’t wait to swim in the pool, and to use it to celebrate her upcoming birthday with her loved ones.
For more on the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, visit them online at www.oki.wish.org.