Nearly 26 months after she received a heart transplant, Julia Parmisciano grounds herself in one-day-at-a-time thinking but gladly diverted from that stance Monday afternoon at Center City’s Hard Rock Cafe, bursting with anticipation over next week’s family trip to Los Angeles. The 15-year-old will sample the city’s star-filled reputation at the 56th annual Grammy Awards, her gift for being the Make-A-Wish Philadelphia & Susquehanna Valley chapter’s 5,000th honoree.
“It’s going to be so exciting,” the resident of the 2200 block of South 13th Street said before flashing a bright smile, something that became an anomaly during 2011’s six-month stay at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “There’s going to be so much for me and my family to experience.”
While at the facility, of which she became a patient following a cardiac episode at Epiphany of Our Lord, now Our Lady of Hope Regional Catholic School, 1248 Jackson St., Julia had concerned eyes inspect her daily but met with only enthusiastic ones Monday. She and her relatives arrived via limousine and walked along a red carpet to applause and best wishes for their California crusade, which will commence Tuesday and culminate with Jan. 26’s Staples Center-situated ceremony. A music maven who intensified her appreciation by improving her guitar skills at CHOP, she looks forward to the pageantry while her mother simply finds herself grateful for more days with her daughter.
“She’s been through so much,” Grace Parmisciano said. “Our faith and support from so many people have pulled us through.”
The matriarch made a connection with the Blue Bell-located Make-A-Wish Foundation representatives through a CHOP child life specialist. Having received her new organ Nov. 22, ’11, Julia left the hospital Dec. 2, with her parent completing an application a short time later. Their clan learned the young fighter would earn placement on a waiting list for her request’s fulfillment, with their delay likely lasting into ’15. Certainly blessed with patience because of their ordeal, they recently reveled when hearing Julia would join other courageous youths at the show.
“She is a smart kid,” President and CEO Dennis Heron said of Julia’s decision to visit a warm climate and desire to encounter entertainment icons. “We hope she has a wonderful time and love that our allies, as always, are enthused about making every child’s experience life-altering.”
Being that her previous state proved life-threatening, Julia and her kin aim to honor Heron’s hopes and continue to forge affinity for having one another as their ultimate source of strength. They have needed to be resilient since doctors diagnosed then-4-month-old Julia with dilated cardiomyopathy, which hinders the pumping of blood and weakens and enlarges one’s heart. Drama mostly spared the family, with the maturing girl leading an active life that included involvement in multiple sports while an Epiphany student. Three months after an echocardiogram showed her affliction had worsened, she eventually went into cardiac arrest following a May 18, ’11 incident at her alma mater.
“It was definitely tough to have to stop doing so much of what I loved, but I knew I had to stay strong,” the teenager said. “My family has been there for me so much, so I’m very fortunate.”
The youngster feels so enamored with her relatives, including father Francesco, brother Joseph and sister Francesca, that she pondered petitioning for an excursion to Hawaii. Her mother, however, wanted her to choose something deeply personal. “Music played such a big role in her recovery that I wanted her to stick with it,” Grace Parmisciano said of her descendant, who counts pop star Selena Gomez, with whom she performed a piece at CHOP during the July 15, ’11 dedication of The Voice multimedia center, as her favorite artist. “It’s great that she’s going to get the opportunity to be among so many talented people.”
The eager individuals will enjoy a fairly robust itinerary, with a welcome lunch and Grammy Museum tour set for Jan. 22, a look at Universal Studios Hollywood planned for Jan. 23 and rehearsals and lunch at ESPN Zone slated for Jan. 24. Following a free day on Jan. 25, they will again have a limousine escort for Wish Day, with Julia likely to find herself spellbound. “I do keep thinking about what it’s going to be like,” she said of playing prognosticator. “I feel great and I’m going to make a lot of memories.”
Heron and his peers pride themselves on creating similar reflections, including last year’s efforts with the East Passyunk Crossing-based Alphabet Academy to send a Philadelphia-area cerebral palsy and seizure disorder patient to Walt Disney World. Having begun operations in 1986, their chapter serves 10 counties and loved lauding Julia as their 5,000th aided youth, commemorating the occasion with a video screen presentation of photos with Julia and her relatives and friends and a well-received Grammy-decorated cake.
“It’s an impressive number,” Heron said. “We have to keep in mind, though, that the most important wish is the next one. Maybe there will come a day when we won’t need to do this, when diseases, afflictions and infirmities will stop penetrating families’ lives.”
Conflict has remained distant from the Parmisciano bunch since Julia returned to her Lower Moyamensing abode, with her heart functioning perfectly following two 2012 bouts with mild rejection. She has resumed her active lifestyle and serves as a cheerleader for the basketball and football squads at Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., where she is a sophomore. Enjoying conversation with her contemporaries as adults crowded around to talk with her, the center of attention commended Make-A-Wish for its intervention.
“They do so many things for so many kids, and it’s just amazing,” she said. Grace Parmisciano loves having been able to return to normalcy yet confessed that a departure from it to head to Los Angeles will be a boon. “Thank you so much, Make-A-Wish Foundation,” she said. “We’re grateful for your role in our lives.”
For more information, visit philasv.wish.org.