A room of her own

Published on: 7/14/2014

If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?

Greendale's Hailee Hedstrom, 11, was asked that question by Make-A-Wish Wisconsin, and without hesitation, she chose a backyard clubhouse.

'They came with a big wish list and said 'the sky's the limit,'' said Hailee's mom, Gina Hedstrom-Zidar.

Hailee, who lives with cystic fibrosis, never even considered a chance to meet a celebrity or take an exotic trip. 'This sounds pretty bad,' she said, 'but I've seen almost everything. We've done a lot of travel.'

What she wanted was a place of her own, and when her request was granted June 12, she became Make-A-Wish Wisconsin's 5,000th child to receive a wish.

'Just as long as I can remember, I always wanted my own space,' said Hailee, who just completed fifth grade at Canterbury Elementary School.

Her reason?

'I have to stay inside a lot to get my treatment,' she said. 'It's kind of boring.'

'She gets her treatment in her room,' Hedstrom-Zidar said. 'That takes up a lot of space.'

Hailee receives inhalation treatment, and she has a vibrating vest that helps loosen mucus in her lungs, as cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease, causes mucus to become thick and block the lungs' airways. The mucus also makes it easier for bacteria to grow, which can cause lung infections.

Hedstrom-Zidar, who said the life expectancy of people with cystic fibrosis is 37, said Hailee's treatments take about half an hour up to an hour.

'On sick days, I stay home and have treatments all day,' said Hailee, who was diagnosed at age 6. 'It's not enjoyable for me.'

'We're hopeful for a cure,' said Hedstrom-Zidar, who is involved in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and helped lobby for mandatory testing of all newborns in the country.

While her treatments are no fun, getting away in her new clubhouse is β€” for her and the friends she's already had over.

'I've been hanging out with my friends,' she said. 'I've had some sleepovers.'

'There were six or seven girls there,' Hedstrom-Zidar said.

'It's much bigger than I thought it would be,' said Hailee.

The 8-by-8-foot clubhouse, with its lavender exterior and pink interior, came fully furnished β€”it has bunk beds and a loft with an outside deck. And below the clubhouse's white-shuttered screened window, there's a white flower box β€” with flowers already in bloom.

Designed by Eppstein Uhen Architects, the clubhouse was built by Hunzinger Construction Co., and Hedstrom-Zidar said Hailee was involved in the entire process from day 1.

'She had like the A-team on everything,' she said. 'From the day the (Make-A-Wish) application was accepted, they came out and started talking.'

Hailee had to sign off on the design work and even made her own suggestions. 'They really liked my drawings,' she said.

And her mom said Hailee looked through paint color samples to find the exact shades she wanted for her clubhouse.

'She got to go down to the design center pick out colors,' Hedstrom-Zidar said. 'It was like building a real house.'