Firefighters build girl's wish

The Richmonds enjoy the a new playset donated by the Make a Wish Foundation.  In the clubhouse are Tyler, Mackenzie, Kaitlin and Jeffrey. Standing are Kaitlin’s parents Jennifer and Jeff. - Nathan Whalen
The Richmonds enjoy the a new playset donated by the Make a Wish Foundation. In the clubhouse are Tyler, Mackenzie, Kaitlin and Jeffrey. Standing are Kaitlin’s parents Jennifer and Jeff.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen

Kaitlin Richmond had a wish that came true on her fourth birthday.

That wish was a new playset so she could play outside with her brothers and sisters.

“It’s perfect that it has a little roof on it,” said Kaitlin’s mom, Jennifer. “She’s not supposed to be in the sun.”

Kaitlin is battling neuroblastoma — a virulent form of cancer that attacks children. Aug. 22, Kaitlin was diagnosed in the most advanced stage of the disease.

Treatment includes chemotherapy, surgery and radition over 12 months — if a child lives that long. Doctors say a stem-cell transplants is a drastic measure and call the treatment “rescuing.” And there’s no guarantee the treatment will work: Neuroblastoma has very high recurrence rates.

During treatment, Kaitlin and her family were at Children’s Hospital or Ronald McDonald House in Seattle. Feb. 26, the Coupeville preschooler got a stem cell transplant to give her a new immune system. She was discharged from Children’s Medical Center April 9, and the family returned to Whidbey Island over Memorial Day weekend. Because Kaitlin now has the immune system of a newborn, she is extremely susceptible to any germ, any virus that comes near her.

Kaitlin goes to Seattle regularly so her health can be monitored. Last week, a central IV line that pumped extra medication and nutrition directly into her system was removed. Until her appetite picks up more, a tube that runs from her nose to her stomach, will remain for supplemental feedings and extra liquid. The tube will also be used for giving Kaitlin medications.

But that slender tube, like any of the tests and cancer treatments she has endured, hasn’t kept Kaitie down long.

The Rainbow Systems clubhouse is a wood play set complete with a plastic slide, swings and a covered clubhouse. Kaitlin received the toy through Make a Wish Foundation. Doctors recommended her for Make A Wish which fulfills wishes of children whose lives may be very short due to disease.

To help build the structure, firefighters from Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue traveled a few blocks from Race Road Fire Station and spent their sunny Saturday morning at the Richmond home.

“The whole idea is that the family doesn’t have to do anything but enjoy the wish,” said Christine Carrozo, a volunteer for Make a Wish Foundation.

About a dozen firefighters came to the Richmonds’ home which is nestled in five acres of woods on Central Whidbey Island.

“It’s neat we got guys to donate time and come out,” said Joe Biller, Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue chief. “It’s real convenient when our fire station is two blocks from here.”

It took about four hours for the volunteers to assemble the playset, place a border of concrete blocks and fill it in with a base of wood chips.

Biller wanted to give Kaitlin a ride in the fire engine. However, on that morning the little girl was back at Children’s Regional Medical Center in Seattle being treatment for a fever.

The playset was ready for her when she came home late Saturday afternoon and Kaitlin spent the next day playing.

Biller said he will try and reschedule a time when Kaitlin can enjoy a ride on the fire engine.

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