Port Lavaca teen gets life-changing wish granted
Feb. 6, 2018 at 10:18 p.m.
For Christmas, Arianna Silvas and her family flew to a foreign country to learn about a different culture.
The Port Lavaca 14-year-old got the chance to visit Tokyo with her family through Make-A-Wish.
She learned how to make traditional ramen and tasted unique desserts with her mother and then went sightseeing with her family.
Arianna, her younger sister, two younger brothers and parents also got to see Mount Fuji and ride a bullet train during the Dec. 22-30 trip.
The holiday was a much happier one than the previous Christmas when she was recovering from brain surgery.
December 2016 marked the start of a tough journey for Arianna, who was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Her mother, Ashley Silvas, said she noticed Arianna was starting to have frequent headaches and was sleeping a lot.
"She had a very high pain tolerance," she said.
Arianna's pediatrician ordered MRI images, which confirmed there was a lesion in her brain.
Arianna was immediately sent to Texas Children's Hospital, where doctors said she had a tumor that needed to be removed right away.
"It makes me thankful that we got in when we did so it didn't get worse," she said.
Arianna endured a long surgery and a weeklong stay in the Houston hospital's intensive care unit.
Doctors inserted an external ventricular drain to treat hydrocephalus, or the buildup of fluid in her brain.
"They were really proud of her because she got up and walked within days of surgery," her mother said.
In January 2017, they learned that Arianna had supratentorial pilomyxoid astrocytoma, which is a hard-to-treat type of brain cancer.
"They don't think it'll get any worse, but we still have to watch and wait," her mother said.
She takes Arianna to Houston for MRI scans every four months. Her daughter is still dealing with effects from the treatment.
Within the past year, the community has rallied behind Arianna.
Ashley Silvas works as a counselor in Victoria and her husband, Roland Silvas, works at Formosa Plastics.
Loved ones organized a "Save the Zombie Food" benefit to help defray Arianna's growing medical costs.
Last fall, they learned that one of Arianna's doctors referred her to the wish-granting organization.
Volunteer wish granter Gail Martin of Victoria contacted the family and helped make necessary arrangements.
Make-A-Wish first started in 1980 granting wishes to children with a terminal diagnosis, but the mission has shifted during the years to include those with a life-threatening condition and those with critical illnesses.
Teresa E. Andrepont, CEO and president of Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana, said research shows children who have wishes granted build the physical and emotional strength they need to fight a critical illness.
The experience improves the child's quality of life and produces better health outcomes, she said.
"It's a chance to forget about the medical bills and doctor's appointments and just be alone as a family," Andrepont said.
Wish coordinator Steph Payton said Arianna did a lot of research for the trip and was selfless in thinking about what her younger siblings might enjoy.
They visited a Pokemon store in Tokyo and tried drinks from vending machines on the street.
"I think it brought a lot of stress relief to the family," Payton said.
The most important part of the wish for Arianna was going on an adventure with her whole family, she said.
When they arrived, a limousine was waiting to take them to stay at an Airbnb.
They ate lots of Japanese food and visited several tourist sites, including one of the oldest fish markets, Godzilla Road and Tokyo Tower, which was inspired by the Eiffel Tower.
Arianna joked that her 3-year-old brother Gabriel was a star there because local people would comment on how cute he is.
"It was awesome," Arianna said. "We tried to do lots and lots of stuff."
Arianna has grown interested in Asian culture and is a big fan of K-pop band BTS.
She took home some candies, including matcha treats and Pocky sticks.
Ashley Silvas said she loved seeing how much joy the trip gave her daughter.
"She was so in her element," she said.
Silvas said they will never forget the experience and she is thankful for Make-A-Wish.
"It was so good for the whole family," she said. "It lifted everybody's spirits for a while and gave us the boost we needed."