Make-A-Wish helps Pasco boy with illness battle Darth Vader, go to Disneyland with family

Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldOctober 19, 2013 

Darth Vader Make a Wish

Landon Jonson, 5, of Pasco, Saturday got his wish to meet Darth Vader fulfilled during a pizza party with his family put together by Make-A-Wish volunteers. Vader's visit was a warm-up to another of LandonÕs dreams: to visit Disneyland. And Make-A-Wish volunteers are helping to make that happen later this month. In February, Landon, one of Dave and Sandy JonsonÕs five children, collapsed after complaining his stomach hurt. Eight surgeries later, the only outward signs he nearly died are his scars and size. Landon weighs 37 pounds, 15 pounds lighter than his twin, Logan, back right.

RICHARD DICKIN — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Darth Vader is alive and wields a mean light saber. Just ask 5-year-old Landon Jonson of Pasco.

Darth Vader strode through his front door Saturday to challenge Landon and his twin, Logan, to a duel.

Landon, an avid Star Wars fan, has always wanted to meet Darth Vader. And that's why Make-A-Wish volunteer Gregory Sullivan of Richland stepped into the role.

The dark villain's visit Saturday was a warm-up to another of Landon's dreams: to visit Disneyland. And Make-A-Wish volunteers are helping to make that happen later this month.

In February, Landon, one of Dave and Sandy Jonson's five children, collapsed after complaining his stomach hurt.

Eight surgeries later, the only outward signs he almost died are his scars and size. Landon weighs 37 pounds, 15 pounds lighter than his twin.

"Dave told me, all the time Landon was in the hospital, he kept telling Landon, 'When you get out of here, we'll go to Disneyland.' I think that's what kept Landon going. After all he went through, how can you not make it happen for him?" said Make-A-Wish volunteer Terri White of Grandview.

White, who's been making children's wishes come true for about nine years, swears having children's heart's desire granted helps boost their immune systems.

"It gives them hope, something to reach for," White said.

Mom, Dad and the twins will fly to Disneyland on Oct. 28, three days before Halloween and the twins' sixth birthday.

Getting there will be a challenge for Landon's mom, Sandy. Two years ago she was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica, a rare and terminal disease of the central nervous system. The Herald wrote about the family's health struggles in April.

Sandy cannot walk. Her left arm is paralyzed and she has partial paralysis in her right arm.

"She's about 95 percent confined to bed. She only makes it downstairs or out to a coffee shop about once a month. But she's going to try to go to Disneyland. She'll give it an effort," Dave Jonson said.

Disneyland will be a challenge for Landon too. He still tires easily, even though he tries to keep up with his twin, his father said.

Landon's medical problems began at birth but didn't manifest until early this year.

February, after playing outside with his brother, Landon went into the house, complained his tummy hurt, vomited and collapsed to the floor.

Within minutes his father drove him to the emergency room at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.

Landon had a battery of tests but it wasn't until Dr. John Droesch was doing an exploratory surgery that he made a startling discovery. Landon's intestines and other internal organs were twisted and their blood supply cut off.

"He came out of surgery and said, 'I'm sorry, I did everything I could. I was stunned,' " Dave Jonson said.

Landon was immediately flown to Seattle Children's Hospital where he was initially given a 5 percent to 10 percent chance of survival.

Doctors removed part of his colon and a portion of his intestines, which included an important valve that slows down the progress of food through the body.

"It's what allows our intestines to absorb the maximum nutrients from our food," Dave Jonson said.

"We have a sneaking suspicion that is what is preventing Landon from gaining weight, even though we let him eat whatever he wants," his dad said.

Landon's favorite foods? Doughnuts and spaghetti.

Dave Jonson, who works at Bechtel, said with two major illnesses in the family their finances are stripped bare.

"The medical bills keep pouring in. It's hard to believe all the zeroes on the totals," he said, adding that the bill for Landon's hospital services, not including any doctor bills, ran about $620,000.

"How do they think this family can pay something like that?" he asked.

Between trips to Seattle for Landon and Sandy to visit their doctors and caring for his ill wife, Jonson says he has "a really weird work schedule. I don't think I've received a full paycheck this year."

Yet Dave Jonson still counts his blessings daily.

"Every day I see them eat, and their smiling faces, and can touch and hug and kiss them, those are blessings in and of themselves. Yes, we have ongoing financial and physical challenges, but they're worth it to have my family with me," he said.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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