(UPDATED) Terminally Ill Peoria Child's Wish to Meet Paul McCartney Almost Granted
Hayden Blair: Great pajamas, great taste in music
UPDATE (August 13, 9 a.m.): The Blairs report having a wonderful time at the concert and wanted to thank Paul McCartney for his generosity. They watched soundcheck and went backstage, and McCartney's representatives gave Hayden a series of gifts, including one of Sir Paul's guitar pics and a drumstick signed by McCartney band member Abe Laboriel Jr. Hayden had a wonderful time, according to his mother.
"It was really amazing to see him so happy," Gina Blair says.
The seats the Blairs bought themselves ended up being better than the seats McCartney's people offered, but they were grateful for the offer regardless. From what Gina learned at the concert, there might have been some crossed wires during the entire process leading up to the show. She makes clear that she doesn't hold any ill will against McCartney.
"It sounds like there might have been some miscommunications on various levels, and I don't think it was Paul's fault at all," Gina says. "They were absolutely amazing to us."
Original story:Life isn't easy for 8-year-old Hayden Blair.
Hayden has what's called a "disorder of mitochondrial metabolism," the umbrella term for several disorders in which a person's mitochondria, the so-called "power plants" of cellular life, do not function properly. During the past two years, Hayden constantly has been in and out of the hospital, says his mom, Gina Blair. Things got so bad for Hayden that his parents contacted the Make-A-Wish Foundation, who assigned volunteer "wish granter" Erika Erkel to the case.
"It's like your own DNA eating itself," Erkel says of the mitochondrial disorder.
There is no cure.
Looking at YouTube videos of Hayden, you see a seemingly healthy child. But that exuberance doesn't tell the whole story, his mom says.
"This disease is very deceiving," Gina says. "I often hear that. 'Oh, he looks so great' . . . But people don't understand what he goes through every day to look that great. He has an IV every day, he has a tube in this stomach he has to use to eat . . . He has a ventilator [that he helps him breath while sleeping] . . . I have a huge walk-in pantry full of medicine and equipment."
On top of his terminal illness, doctors diagnosed Hayden with autism when he was just 27 months old.
His autism created a whole set of challenges on top of the health ones for Gina Blair and her husband, who live in Glendale. But it wasn't without its uplifting moments. He developed an affinity for a certain musical group, a member of which is playing US Airways Center tonight.
"His autistic savant quality is music, specifically the Beatles," Gina says, recalling how as a toddler, the only time Hayden would sing would be when he sang along to a Fab Four tune. "He knows the words to every single Beatles song. He can play most of them on guitar."
When the Make-A-Wish Foundation asked, Hayden had one request: to play a song with the two remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Obviously, that wouldn't be possible. But the organization might be able to arrange a meet-and-greet with McCartney at one of his Phoenix shows. Unfortunately, in May, the Make-A-Wish Foundation told the Blairs that McCartney's people apologized, but the singer's schedule would not allow for a meet-and-greet.
"He's just an amazing kid, and we were really sad to hear that Paul's meet-and-greets were all booked up, and that normally he works really well with Make-A-Wish, but he just couldn't do it this time," Gina says. "[Hayden] was sad, but he was okay with it, actually."
But Gina and her husband weren't. While Make-A-Wish started making preparations to fulfill Hayden's second wish (a trip to New York to see the architecture he's enamored with), they decided they were going to get their child to the concert, no matter what it took -- and in this case, it was going to take quite a lot. Hayden would need to watch the concert from his wheelchair, and that means they would need three tickets in a wheelchair-accessible seating area (good seats, of course), which would cost more than $800.
"My husband decided to work about 90 hours a week the entire summer to purchase tickets," Gina says.
A couple of weeks ago, they broke the news to their son. You can see what happened in the following video:
Earlier this afternoon, Hayden got even more good news. Gina got a call from one of McCartney's representatives. While the representative said that McCartney still probably wouldn't be able to meet the family, he was prepared to offer them upgraded seats and invited the family backstage to eat dinner with the crew.
Gina picked Hayden up from school early and told him the news. He was, of course, overjoyed.
By now, the family has most likely loaded up their Toyota Sienna and headed to the concert. McCartney may not have given the kid free tickets, nor did he commit to meeting him. But he has the chance to use his celebrity to shine a beam of happiness into the life of a very sick child, and he should take advantage of the opportunity. All he has to do is mention his name before he performs one of Hayden's favorite songs, like "Blackbird," which McCartney played in Los Angeles on Sunday.
So come on, Paul. Give the kid a shout-out. Give him what might be the happiest moment of life, and let him forget about the hospital visits, the IVs, and stomach-feeding tube, and the kidney issues for a few serene, glorious seconds.
Correction: This blog originally stated that the Blairs were from Glendale. It also said that they had converted their van into a wheelchair van; they haven't -- the cost is too much. And Gina Blair says that while Hayden's kidneys aren't "failing," they do have "issues."
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