Make-A-Wish sends W. Richland girl to Disney World

By Sara Schilling, Herald staff writerApril 26, 2010 

WEST RICHLAND -- Sydnee Neiman likes Mickey Mouse.

But the real reason she wants to go to Disney World is the roller coasters.

The West Richland 7-year-old likes going fast and having adventures. And she's no stranger to unexpected twists and turns.

She has an incurable heart disease and faces her fourth open heart surgery this summer. Once she's recovered, she and her family plan a trip to the Florida theme park through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"I want to go tomorrow," she said.

She met with a volunteer from the nonprofit group last week to talk about her wish.

The second-grader happily answered questions about everything from her favorite color to her favorite book. She talked about why Disney World would be fun -- because of all those great rides.

A few years ago, she went to Disneyland in California with her family. "There was this ride at Disneyland. It goes straight up, and then it goes straight down!" she said.

Before she can don Mickey Mouse ears and try the rides in Florida, she has to travel to Portland for heart surgery in mid-June.

Sydnee, who attends Tapteal Elementary School, was born with a rare condition called truncus arteriosus. People with disease have one large artery to carry blood from their heart instead of two, according to the American Heart Association.

She already has had three heart surgeries, including one as an infant. Eventually, she'll likely have a mechanical valve put in as a more permanent solution but is too young for that now, her parents said.

In June, doctors are to operate to replace the aorta and pulmonary valves. She isn't nervous about surgery because she's gone to the doctor so many times before, she said.

She's shared with some of her school friends that she has a problem with her heart and needs help from doctors. They wouldn't know that by looking at her.

The talkative, friendly 7-year-old seems to have lots of energy. But she does tire easily and needs extra sleep, said her mom, Judy Neiman. Sydnee also has scars from her time under the surgeon's knife.

Neiman has been caring for Sydnee since she was born. Sydnee is the birth daughter of Neiman's niece, but Neiman and her husband Paul adopted her.

"She's just a sweetheart. She's just a good little girl. I'm proud," Neiman said.

Her health problems haven't been the family's only challenge. Both Judy and Paul Neiman were laid off in the past year.

Paul, an electrician, recently started a new job, and Judy is now a substitute paraeducator in the Richland School District.

Money has been tight. An account to help the family has been set up at HAPO Community Credit Union under Judy Neiman's name.

It's expected to take Sydnee at least a month to recover from her June surgery. Then the family will take the Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World.

They'll also celebrate Sydnee's eighth birthday in August. Knowing Sydnee has a serious health problem hasn't been easy, but the little girl has been brave, and friends and family have been supportive, her parents said.

"We have a lot of people saying prayers for her -- the neighbors, relatives, people we just meet," Paul said. "You just want to thank people for their prayers."

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