LEWISTOWN - On March 26, 2012, then-3-year-old Marianna Wilson, of Lewistown, got a nosebleed that wouldn't stop.
Her parents, Tom Wilson, a Granville Township Police officer and Crystal Wilson, a stay-at-home mom, said they were alarmed by her condition.
"(Crystal) was in a panic and I took (Marianna) to Mount Nittany and we found out her platelet count was low. It was 6,000 and the normal count is 140,000 so they transferred her to Danville," Tom said.
Marianna Wilson’s favorite Disney character is Ariel. She got her picture taken with the Disney character during the family’s visit to the Magic Kingdom.
The Wilson family, front, Rhyder, Amora and Izzaiah, second row, Marianna, third row, Crystal, Alex, Mickey and Tom, enjoyed a six day trip to Disney World in May after Make-A-Wish granted Marianna’s wish.
Marianna participates in Village Idol at Give Kids the World, the hotel where the Wilson family stayed on their recent trip to Orlando, sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Eventually it was determined that Marianna suffered from severe aplastic anemia, a disease that causes bone marrow to stop making red blood cells.
"We were all in shock. We just thought we were going to the hospital for a bloody nose," Tom said.
Crystal said most people in Marianna's condition get a bone marrow transplant, but since no match was found for her, doctors tried a different course of treatment, an infusion of antibodies derived from animals, known as ATG.
According to the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation, "immunosuppressive therapy with anti-tymocyte globulin (ATG) plus cyclosporine kills specific cells in your immune system called T-lymphocytes - the cells that are attacking your stem cells. This allows your bone marrow to rebuild its supply of stem cells. The stem cells, in turn, make more blood cells."
Marianna's condition was especially tough on the family. Tom and Crystal also have four other children, Alex, 11, Izzaiah, 7, Rhyder, 3, and Amora, 4.
"When she got sick we had to rely on other people. I rely a lot on my gram ... the first year was the toughest because we would go back and forth to Danville (for Marianna's treatment)," Crystal said.
As a result of Marianna's severe illness, the family was referred to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.
"We were referred to Make-A-Wish and got in contact with Brenda Chesney from McClure, and she told them (Marianna) wanted to go to Disney World. She loves dolphins and her big thing was Sea World. Marianna got this paper in the mail that said her wish had been granted," Crystal said.
The family traveled to Orlando on May 20 for six days. The family was housed at Give the Kids the World, a resort that caters to family with sick children.
"It's a gated community for sick kids. They were great. Every evening they had a different kind of activity," Tom said.
Marianna participated in Village Idol at the resort, and said she was amazed she had the opportunity.
"Singing at Village Idol at Give the Kids the World ... I can't believe I got to sing on stage. Everyone was a winner," Marianna said.
The family visited Sea World, Gator World, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios.
"We got to (Give the Kids the World) and they told us what tickets they provided. Whatever they gave us we tried to do. We tried to keep it kid-friendly," Tom said.
During their visit to Sea World, Marianna was able to meet a dolphin up close for the first time.
"Marianna liked Sea World the most. She loves dolphins. Marianna and other Make-A-Wish Kids got a special pin and the (employees) gave her some special treatment," Tom said.
At the Magic Kingdom, Marianna was able to meet her favorite Disney character and got her photo taken with her.
"My favorite character is Ariel and I loved getting my picture taken with her and her autograph," she said, referring to the main character in "The Little Mermaid."
Tom said the family is grateful to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Give the Kids the World Resort.
"Everything was taken care of. They even booked the airlines. There is nothing they didn't think of," he said.
Marianna said she was happy to have her wish come true.
"I can't believe I had such an amazing experience," she said.
Recently, Marianna's condition has been improving. After regular blood transfusions, she hasn't had one since last May. Even better, doctors gave the OK for Marianna stop taking her ATG medicine.
"She had blood work every six weeks and when it came back OK the medication was lowered, and eventually she got off of the medication," Tom said.
Tom said Marianna's outlook is positive.
"Twenty years from now she could be normal. The doctor said Marianna is still going to be on the bone marrow transplant list," he said.