ALTAMONT — When Owen Savage went to his Early Childhood class taught by Laurie Akeman at Altamont Elementary School Monday morning, he had no idea a wish he made last fall would be granted.
That's when he learned he and his family are going to Florida thanks to Make-A-Wish Illinois.
Owen Savage lives with his dad and mom, Rick and Kristen Savage, along with his two brothers, Ethan, 11 and Landon, 10.
Just 5 years old, Owen has had three open heart surgeries during his lifetime — his first at nine days old, his second at 4 months, and the third surgery at age 3 in October of 2017.
Owen had a stroke right after his third heart surgery that left him paralyzed and temporarily blind, his mom explained.
“He had a stroke after the last heart surgery that paralyzed the left side of his body,” Kristen Savage said.
“Six of the eight lobes of the brain were affected by the stroke,” she added. “They put him in an induced coma to let his brain rest.”
“God healed him and he is a walking, talking miracle,” she said.
“He's not 100 percent,” said Rick Savage. “But you wouldn't know it (by looking at him).”
Owen's Pediatric Cardiologist, Dr. Burt Bromberg of St. Louis, said Owen's medical condition is a complex heart disease, with two major components. In a normal heart, he said, there are two pumping chambers (the ventricles), where the right ventricle pumps unoxygenated blood to the lungs and the left ventricle pumps oxgenated blood to the body. Owen only has a single ventricle and the other ventricle did not develop, according to Bromberg.
Bromberg said Owen has had a series of operations to direct the unoxygenated blood directly to the lungs. He said Owen was born with a underdeveloped ascending aorta that was repaired during a complex reconstruction surgery.
Since Owen had a complex heart condition, he was eligible to be a Make-A-Wish Illinois recipient.
“We sent a request in last fall,” Kristen said. “Then we met with the wish granters, Janet and Rosa.”
“Owen really likes Star Wars characters,” she added.
Dressed in blue Make-A-Wish Illinois T-shirts, Janet Smallwood of Dundas and Rosa Schmidt of Windsor traveled to Altamont to grant Owen's special wish and throw a party.
All classes of the Altamont Elementary filed into the cafeteria to be greeted by Effingham High School Drama Club members portraying several popular characters, including several Disney characters. Also waiting for Owen were his parents and brothers, along with several other family members.
As Akeman's Early Childhood class entered the cafeteria, a special Star Wars character, Darth Vader, was waiting at the door to escort Owen to a special seat as students chanted his name. The classes were treated to a special treat while a special announcement was made.
“I am a wish granter from Make-A-Wish,” Janet Smallwood said to the classes and family members in the cafeteria. “And how somebody gets a wish is they have to have something that is an illness that is very, very hard to handle.”
“Owen has had heart surgery three times, so he got to meet with me and Rosa and was able to make a wish of something he wanted to do,” Smallwood said. “He wants to go to Disney, so next week he's going to Disney.”
“We wanted to surprise him today,” Smallwood added. “He did not have a clue that this was happening. Mom and Dad, brothers, aunts and grandparents all knew, but he (Owen) didn't know.”
Owen and his family are traveling to Florida on Thursday of next week for a Star Wars guided tour of the Disney parks, Universal Studios and Sea World.
“We are all very appreciative of everything everybody is doing for him,” Rick Savage said. “He's definitely our little hero.”
“And it's great when everyone else recognizes that too,” Savage added.
“We've had great support from our family and our church,” Kristen Savage said.
Overwhelmed by all of the pageantry and attention, Owen Savage was at a loss for words, except to say, “I'm happy."
Charles Mills can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.