Dance of a Lifetime

People have asked me over the years how I handle reporting so much bad news. I’ve worked in TV news since college and I have reported on many tragedies.  Too many.  I’ve driven home in tears more times than I can count.

At the same time, I’ve covered the incredible depth and strength of the human spirit. People often don’t know how strong they are until the time comes.

unnamedFor 10 year old Ella Parkhill and her family, the time is now.

Ella was born with an extra vein in her heart — a condition called PDA. Her mom, Carly, tells me the size of the vein was misdiagnosed by several cardiologists.

Carly and her husband Chad refused to rest until they got to the bottom of Ella’s medical condition and the mysterious symptoms that continued to surface.

Ella’s feet were blue in color, and in 2013, a friend suggested that the family have her growth hormone tested — since she was small for her age and had severe developmental issues.

It turns out, Ella’s PDA is actually 7 times the size of what doctors originally believed. She has what’s called Eisenmenger’s Disease. In non-medical terms, Ella’s heart and lungs are working overtime and there is no cure.

unnamed2Her mom told me that despite this ongoing health crisis, they ‘live a mainstream life without limits for her.’ Ella has two younger brothers, ages 8 and 5. The family takes each step in this journey together. A close family friend told me that Carly’s children are reflections of the ‘spirited and intense love she has for them and for life in general.’unnamed3

Ella’s future is uncertain. She may become a candidate for a heart-lung transplant, but, according to Carly, it only buys 5 years and the success rate is only 50%.

Because of the severity of her case, Ella was granted a wish with the Make A Wish Foundation. While she is not able to communicate very well, the one thing her family knows for sure is that she loves music and dancing. They wanted the wish to be perfect. They wanted it to be unique and special — just like her.

IMG_7948Thanks to the kindness and generosity of the Phoenix Suns and the tireless efforts of the Make A Wish Foundation, Ella gets her wish this week. On March 11th, she puts on her dancing shoes and takes center stage with the Phoenix Suns Dance Team.

Cue the music!

150 of Ella’s biggest fans, friends and family members will be in the crowd to cheer her on.  This moment means more to the Parkhill family than words can describe.

I wish I never had to cover a child being sick. But each time I tell a story about a child who is fighting, I also tell the story of the family who has more strength than they ever imagined. And a community full of people — often times strangers — who want to share their love. That’s the beauty and depth of the human spirit.

So, while the Suns are struggling a little big on the court, applaud them. To make wishes like this come true is more than just a game. It’s a game changer for this sweet 10 year old and a family whose love and dedication moves me to tears.

9 Comments

  1. This moved me to tears I am beyond excited for Ella. She is going to shine and make us all so proud!

    Reply
    • Cerey, you have written a beautiful blog about Ella and her family – thank you. Ella is one of our 7 beautiful grandchildren. She continues to inspire us all with her spirit and love of life. We remember vividly the day she was born when the doctors said she may not live to see her first birthday, BUT here she is going strong. We look forward to her performance tonight at the Phoenix Suns game as part of the Make A Wish gift. Grandpa Parkhill

      Reply
  2. What a beautiful write-up on an even more beautiful family. Despite the health struggles and stress that would have the potential to overwhelm any family, the Parkhills are the most friendly, positive, upbeat and happy people we know. We are blessed to call them our friends and could not be more excited to share this incredible evening with them. TEAM ELLA!! Rock it, sister!!

    Reply
  3. Ella is simply unforgettable. She leaves a stamp on anyone’s heart she meets! I’m certain she will have the same impact with her performance tonight! Thank you Carey Pena, Channel 3 News, The Phoenix Suns and Make A Wish Foundation for making her dream a reality! Good luck Ella! We Love You!

    Reply
    • Hi Carrie! Thanks for your sweet post! I am not with 3TV anymore — I left at the end of the year. But I have shared Ella’s story with a few stations in hopes that they will cover this great event tonight!

      Reply
  4. What a enchanted story about that wonderful tie that binds us all….Love! Thank you for sharing Carey!

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  5. What a wonderful write-up, Carey! Go Ella!!!

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  6. Love love love! Go Ella! Huge hugs for the Parkhill family!

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  7. Carey – Your blog was amazing. Thank you for helping spread Ella’s wonderful story. How ironic that she has this heart condition, yet she is able to use her heart to spread love more effectively than anyone else I’ve ever met! The ‘dance of a lifetime’ was a huge success last night thanks to Make a Wish, the Phoenix Suns organization, and all of Ella’s family and friends! I am certain when I say that I have never seen Ella so happy than she was last night. Keep in mind her heart condition is supposed to make her tire easily, yet she danced continuously with those fantastic Suns dancers for 7 hours straight, and loved every minute of it…. She is a miracle!

    Reply

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