East Troy boy, family get to cruise with Mickey Mouse

Sullivan Kendall (second, from right) and his family will go on a Disney Cruise to the Western Caribbean next week after their story was brought to the attention of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sullivan’s parents, siblings and grandparents will all make the trip with him, including (front, from left) dad Jason, brother Seth, sisters Cieara, Evelyn and Brittaney, mom Jodi and (back) grandparents Kathy and Mitch Kendall. (Photo by Vanessa Lenz)

By Vanessa Lenz

SLN Staff

As Jason Kendall packed the family van with his son’s go-to bags filled with medical supplies and oxygen on Feb. 13, he acknowledged what a big day it was for his family.

The Kendalls were preparing to head to a party at Chuck E. Cheese’s in Brookfield to learn the Make-A-Wish Foundation would grant their beloved Sullivan’s wish of going on a Disney Cruise.

The East Troy family of seven, along with grandma and grandpa Kathy and Mitch Kendall, will leave their troubles behind and head to the Western Caribbean for 11 days during what will be their first vacation in more than six years.

“We need this,” Jason said.

After hearing his story, it’s no surprise the Wisconsin chapter of Make-A-Wish reached out to Sullivan or Sully as he is endearingly called by his family members.

Sully has been fighting for his life ever since he was just three weeks old.

His mother Jodi painfully recalled the day her son stopped breathing while the family was trick-or-treating in their hometown of Burlington.

“He was dressed as Superman and we were going to meet his great-grandma for the first time,” Jodi explained. “Then somebody noticed he had blood coming out of his mouth.”

She said Sully’s airway had somehow been obstructed.

His grandma Kathy, a nurse and former Town of Lyons EMT, quickly pulled him from his car seat and began CPR on her grandson.

Sully was then rushed to Aurora Memorial Hospital of Burlington, where Jodi said the staffers saved her son’s life.

“Dad took him to the ER and was pounding on the door to let him in because he was holding this lifeless baby. We didn’t know what happened to him at first,” Jodi said.

“It was the longest wait I’ve ever had in my entire life,” she said of having to sit in another room wondering if her baby would be OK.

After Sully was stabilized, he was transferred by Flight for Life to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee.

“When I saw them push him out on the gurney, he had his thumb up and he had one eye open like ‘I’m going to be OK mom,’” Jodi said.

Nurses, who Jodi has kept in touch with, still have visions of the Kendalls’ three other children, twins Brittaney and Cieara, then 12, and Seth, then 8, waving goodbye to their baby brother while wearing their Halloween costumes.

Jodi said doctors never officially figured out what caused the accident since they couldn’t link it to any genetic disorder.

“They think it was the way the car seat was designed and his lower jaw was a little smaller than it should have been, so maybe a combination,” Jodi said.


Sullivan Kendall learned that the Make-A-Wish Foundation would grant his wish by providing his family with a much needed vacation to the west Caribbean during a special unveiling party on Feb. 13 at Chuck E. Cheese’s in Brookfield. Meeting Chuck E. Cheese was a dream come true in itself for Sully, who loves puppets and characters.

A rough road

Things have not been easy for the Kendalls since the incident.

Sully spent six months at Children’s Hospital before he was sent home with hospice care.

“We didn’t know what his prognosis was. They thought that he wasn’t going to make it,” Jodi said holding back tears.

Sully and his family fought back, however, and began 24/7 care and several therapies.

Jodi said she saw a big advancement in Sully’s gross motor skills following the birth of their youngest daughter Evelyn, now 4.

“He learned to walk and crawl just like his sister. He was very determined to do it,” Jodi said.

In the past several years, Sully has undergone multiple surgeries to further open up his airway, including failed attempts to remove his tracheotomy tube.

But Jodi said the fact that Sully is here at all is “a  true miracle.”

“It’s crazy how the rug can get pulled from your feet, yet you can come out on top,” Jodi said. “You appreciate life.”

The 6 year old now attends kindergarten at Lakeland School in Elkhorn.

Kathy, a former nurse at Kiwanis Manor in East Troy (now East Troy Manor), spends her days as Sully’s main nurse.

“It was just very nice to be able to step in and take care of Sully,” Kathy said.

She puts in a 60 hour work week caring for her grandson, but said she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love being with him,” Kathy said. “What better job for a nurse than to be able to take care of her grandson?”

Sully’s siblings have also chipped in with his care.

“The girls knew how to change a trach when they were only 12 years old,” Jodi said.

Although Sully has survived the odds, he still has difficulty swallowing and recently began having seizures.

“We’ve got to keep his airways open, especially when he’s sick,” Kathy said. “We do everything we can to keep him here, but we’ve had some really scary moments.”


A wish come true 

Sully was recommended to apply to Make-a-Wish by Kathy during an eight-week stay at the hospital following a jaw distraction surgery on his birthday.

“They came in and said ‘We have a birthday present for you. You are going to make a wish.’” Jodi said.

She said she couldn’t be more grateful.

“We haven’t been able to be a family since his accident. We haven’t really done anything,” Jodi said.

She said timing is perfect since her twins graduated early in January from East Troy High School and will be heading off to college soon.

Jodi said they are all in need of a stress-free week, which will begin on March 2 when the Kendalls leave for their cruise.

They will board Disney Fantasy at Port Canaveral and will sail to Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Castaway Cay.

The trip includes two days at Disney World and Jodi said Sully and his little sister Evelyn are hoping for a Mickey Mouse run in.

Meeting the biggest Disney star of all time would be a dream come true for Sully who loves puppets and characters.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation has been granting wishes for children with life threatening medical conditions for decades.

Make-A-Wish Wisconsin grants more than 300 wishes a year and has granted more than 4,700 wishes since 1984, according to Forrest Doolen, public relations manager for Make-A-Wish.

“Last year alone, Make-A-Wish Wisconsin granted a record-breaking 325 wishes. Currently, more than 250 wishes are in progress,” Doolen said.





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