By Kevin Kelley
It took more than three years, but Zoe Watterson’s wish has finally come true.
The 18-year-old Westlake High School senior’s wish was unique for two reasons. First, it was made through Make-A-Wish, the organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Second, the wish was not for something that would be for her enjoyment alone.
Since her first months of life, Zoe has been battling cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and digestive system. Patients experience symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath, as well as life-threatening lung infections.
The disease forced Zoe to spend weeks at a time at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. During one stay, she decided the sterile environment of a hospital ward was not conducive to healing, especially for children. The fifth floor of the hospital needed to be remodeled to be a more colorful, cozy place, she concluded.
During her several stays at the hospital, Zoe drew sketches of her vision for the hospital floor.
Zoe applied to Make-A-Wish for assistance in making the hospital a more pleasant place for the children who have to spend time there.
Many months of planning and fundraising followed.
Most notably, Zoe’s goal drew the attention of Paul “Theo” Theodore, a Westshore fitness instructor. Zoe’s efforts inspired Theodore to twice pursue a new world record for the most number of pull-ups within a 24-hour period. Although both attempts failed, Theodore’s well-publicized attempts raised nearly $50,000 for Zoe’s project and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
In addition, Make-A-Wish received donations that helped make Zoe’s goal a reality, including paint and design of the artwork. PPG Industries supplied paint and design assistance. GE Lighting donated energy-efficient LED lighting and Levin Furniture donated furniture.
On April 29, a ribbon cutting ceremony opened the redecorated fifth floor at the hospital.
The new design features a jungle theme and includes artwork submitted by other cystic fibrosis patients.
“I was speechless,” Zoe said of her reaction when she first saw the renovated hospital ward. “It was everything I hoped it would be.”
Zoe’s doctor, Michael Konstan, said her project was an example of patients inspiring their physicians.
Zoe will be attending Oregon State University this fall to study forestry management.