This is the time of year that some of us make Christmas wishes. It seems every year, we have a few kids who have wishes that melt our hearts.
This year, seven-year-old Abigail Szabat "Abby" of Kissimmee is one of those children. Her wish is to have a trained, seizure dog.
"The seizure dog helps me not be afraid of the dark," she said. "That's the one thing I'm embarrassed about if I tell a person." A dog to help her face her fears and, "also, so when I have a seizure at night, he'll alert it to my mom or dad."
The dog can sense oncoming seizure minutes, or even hours, before it takes over Abigail's mind and body. Abby's mother, Kate, has the same wish as her daughter and wants her to flourish, in spite of her epilepsy, which she will never outgrow. She also hopes to find a way to pay for the dog.
Fighting off tears, Kate said, "It's hard to watch your kids struggle and not be able to stop it or help them. I just want to make things better." As she finishes, little Abby protectively walks over to her mom and says, "Mom, it's OK." This immediately makes Kate force a smile on her face, because that's what moms do.
Abby was born with a brain malformation, called cortical displaysia, which has led to developmental delays, an autistic spectrum disorder, and uncontrollable seizures. As little Abby does gymnastic moves on a dog pillow set aside in anticipation of her seizure dog for which the family can't afford, it's hard to imagine how rough it can get.
Abby misses a lot of school due to medical tests and seizures that keep her awake at night.
Plus, she's embarrassed about her seizures. But that's far from the worst of her problems.
"I'm afraid my friends will laugh at me," she said. "I don't really tell them."
"It's scary," Kate said. "Fifty-thousand Americans die from epilepsy each year. People don't think about it. As a parent, when your child is having seizures at night, you do think about that. A seizure dog would alert me... would let me know." And that would be the best Christmas gift of all for this mom.
Kate is working with the nonprofit 4 Paws For Ability, which provides a trained seizure dog. The total cost is about $30,000, but families only have to raise $13,000 of that amount.
If you would like to help, there's also a specific website for Abby: 4pawsforAbby.com.