GLENDALE - Nine-year-old Maya Pykett's disabilities make it difficult for her to express herself, but her smile made it clear she was happy to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Maya's third-grade classmates at Parkway School gathered in the school's gym on Friday, Feb. 17, to wish her well as she prepares for a week-long trip to Disney World, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Maya was able to hug Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and she received hand-written letters from her classmates.
Maya, who weighed only 2.2 pounds when she was born at 26 weeks in rural China, has intractable epilepsy, which means she has uncontrollable, non-convulsive seizures in her sleep.
Maya's uncontrollable seizures have not been easy for the Pykett family, who adopted her at 15 months. They have made several middle-of-the-night hospital visits after her face turned blue in her sleep. She takes five medications twice per day, but Tim and Sheila doubt the medications are helping to mitigate the seizures.
In addition to epilepsy, Maya also has cognitive disabilities. She has difficulty controlling her behavior and explaining her feelings to others.
"There are a lot of times when she will say her head feels funny, but we don't if that means a headache or a seizure event," Tim said. "So we have to be like Sherlock Holmes and put together the clues to see if we need to notify her neurologist."
Above all else, Tim and Sheila say their daughter is a sweet, compassionate and loving girl who is well-liked by her classmates. When the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave her a princess dress, Maya told her parents she would also like to make a donation to help kids with life-threatening illnesses. Sheila helped Maya organize a toy drive that collected more than 200 toys and $330 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in only three or four weeks.
"Maya is just such an inspirational person," Sheila said. "We want this to be a learning experience for these children, to show them that everyone doesn't have the same abilities."
Maya's interest in going to Disney World was sparked several years ago when she started watching classic Disney movies like Snow White and Cinderella with her grandmother. The family tried to take Maya to Disney World three years ago, but the combination of the 91-degree heat and Maya's dehydrating medication limited their trip to a couple hours. They are hoping that the moderate March temperatures will make for a more comfortable vacation this time around.
Tim and Sheila say Maya's favorite character is Goofy, but she is also looking forward to meeting all of the Disney princesses.
"She's super excited," Sheila said. "We're super excited."