Dr. John Purviance of Casper encourages Wyoming physicians
to nominate children for Make-A-Wish opportunities.
CASPER – Dr. John Purviance never had anyone in his family diagnosed with cancer – until his five-year-old nephew in 2009.
Purviance said going through such a hard time with his family not only helped him to empathize and connect on a more personal level with his patients, but it also changed his perspective about Make-A-Wish and the power of a wish.
“I was aware of Make-A-Wish and approached it from a medical perspective,” says Purviance. “There are a lot of cancer outreach programs and I want to see cancer cured. But I was very impressed watching my nephew and his family go through the wish process. My big takeaway from that was this was the one thing that brought a little bit of a smile and a little bit of a reprieve. It was a moment in his life where you could tell he was just really excited.”
Purviance said for him, now, seeing a patient get referred to Make-A-Wish is really important.
“Being able to make or encourage a referral, I feel, opens up the opportunity for that kid to have that transformative experience,” he says.
Because Make-A-Wish staff do not approach potentially eligible children, every wish must begin with a referral. Referrals can come from doctors, nurses, social workers, parents/guardians and even the child themselves.
According to statistics from the national Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Wyoming chapter is only reaching about half of the children in the state who are medically eligible for a wish. That means for every wish granted in Wyoming, there is one more child who has yet to be referred to the organization. Purviance said he would like to see Make-A-Wish be one of the first things people think about when a child falls ill with a life-threatening medical condition.
“I don’t think some people — I know I was one — are aware of how transformative it can be to give a kid a special moment, that magical thing,” he says. “You can’t give that kid their childhood back, but this (a wish) is the next best thing. It really is powerful.”
Dr. John Purviance is a radiation oncologist at Rocky Mountain Oncology in Casper, Wyoming. He serves as the medical advisor to Make-A-Wish Wyoming and is a member of the board of directors.