Monday 20 November 2017

VIDEO: Make-a-Wish Ireland makes little boy’s dream to train a Killer Whale come true

Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

A little boy with a life threatening heart condition fulfilled his dream to train killer whales thanks to an Irish charity which does not receive government funding.

Ondrej Byrtusova (6) who was born with Hypoplastic Left-Heart Syndrome was able to recreate his favourite film ‘Free Willy’ after he was granted a wish by the Make-a-Wish Foundation last year.

Ondrej pictured with Killer Whale Malia
Ondrej pictured with Killer Whale Malia

The little boy travelled to Orlando, Florida with his family where he had the opportunity to train Killer Whale Malia on his first ever holiday.

Ondrej’s mum Vlasta Byrtusova said it was extremely special to see her son fulfil his dream after years spent in and out of hospital.

“It was the nicest moment ever when I saw my son so happy and joyful,” she said.

“I am very proud of him that he did it. He was absolutely brilliant when he trained Malia showing her how to turn, kiss him, say yes and no, wave and splash, shake her tongue and blow bubbles,” she said.

Ondrej pictured with Killer Whale Malia
Ondrej pictured with Killer Whale Malia

The mum revealed that the trip was a joy for her whole family after the past six years which have seen Ondrej go through three open heart surgeries.

“We could not have done without the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was the nicest thing ever to see my boys so happy and joyful after those tough couple of years. Their eyes were sparkling and it made me very happy,” she said.

Vlasta was thrilled with the arrival of baby Ondrej in 2009 but after a check-up it became evident that Ondrej was seriously ill. The family had already lost a baby with a congenital heart condition in the past.

“Ondrej was only two days old when he underwent the first open heart surgery. Ondrej proved that he was a really very strong boy.  He survived. We were told that his life was still at risk,” she said.

“It was a very tough time. Life for my family was filled with a lot of fear, hopelessness and helplessness.”

“My other two boys, Jan (2) and Matej aged 5 years-old at the time, had to spend most of the time with my parents and had to learn how to live without their mum while I spent a lot of time in hospital with their brother,” she said.

Vlasta said that although Ondrej’s prognosis is unclear, the Byrtusova family are making the most of their time together.

“The prognosis for children with this syndrome is still not clear. Two out of four children don’t reach their adulthood and for those that do doctors still don’t know how long they can survive without a complete heart transplant.

Ondrej pictured with Killer Whale Malia
Ondrej pictured with Killer Whale Malia

“Despite this prognosis we enjoy every minute of our life together as a family,” she said.

The Make-a-Wish foundation does not receive government funding and relies completely on donations from the public.

Ondrej’s mum Vlasta praised the charity and said she would be forever grateful for the special trip they planned for her child.

 “I will never stop being thankful and grateful to people who donate to Make-A-Wish. They do so much for families whose children are sick and live with life-threatening conditions,” she said.

Make-a-Wish Ireland will have their annual Wish Band Day on Thursday April 16 where volunteers around the country will be selling wristbands in four colours in support of the charity.

For more information and to become involved visit:

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