“Zach was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was only a year and a half old,” recalls his mother, Stephanie Dudley. “Today he looks like a healthy seventeen-year-old, but does vest treatments twice a day to break up mucous in his lungs and I think we counted that he takes 35 to 40 pills on a daily basis.”
“Last year when we were at the doctor’s office, the nurse asked Zach if he’d made his wish yet. We didn’t really even think he could have one, because he wasn’t sick. She explained that Zach was eligible because he was battling a medical condition that was threatening his life,” Dudley continued. “Zach wasn’t sure that he wanted to do the wish. I sat him down and told him it was completely up to him, but that this was his chance to do anything he wanted and he may not get that chance again. I didn’t hear anything from him after that, so I had assumed that he decided to not have his wish granted.”
Behind the scenes, Zach and his father, Mark, were busy, though. Zach had gone ahead with his referral to Make-A-Wish and decided to give his wish to his mom. They had always joked about going on a cruise together, but his mom didn’t want to go anywhere warm. Zach decided to take her and the family on an Alaskan cruise.
“On Mother’s Day, I got a little card from Zach and it just said, ‘I didn’t get you much, but how about a cruise to Alaska?’ that’s when I realized they had been working on this for a while,” remembers Stephanie Dudley. “I cried a lot. It was just so thoughtful.”
The Dudley family went on the wish in August, leaving the Omaha airport for Anchorage, Alaska, and then taking the train to the shoreline, where they got on the boat for their seven day cruise. Zach had chosen a cruise that involved a lot of time on shore during the day. The family did a lot of hiking, saw dolphins and whales and enjoyed outdoor activities in Alaska. Zach and his brother, Josh, even went zip-lining and snorkeling during their time away. During one of their sailing days, they got close enough to the famous Hubbard Glacier to hear it calving, the process when chunks of ice break off the side of the glacier.
“My favorite memory of the experience were the waiters who served us each night at the formal dinner, they were just so friendly and nice,” said Stephanie Dudley. “For me, though, being together with my family was the best part. My older son is twenty now and the cost of Zach’s medications are pretty high. We haven’t been able to have our family together for a vacation in years.”