YouTube fan Kobe gets his mansion
Kobe woke up one morning paralysed, but the 8 year old's spirits have been lifted by living like a YouTuber for a week
COVID-19 stood between Kobe and his wish to live like a YouTuber.
Kobe was set to have his wish in 2020 when the virus swept Australia and put the brakes on his wish.
But with COVID under control in NSW, 8-year-old Kobe finally got to live it large in his own mansion, just like his favourite YouTubers.
Kobe was farewelled from his school the day of his wish, with the whole school taking part in activities for him.
There were YouTube-style cupcake and selfie challenges before the school's 180 students and 30 teachers lined up and clapped Kobe as he headed off in a sports car. The school principal also handed Kobe the key to his mansion.
"It was magical, really," Kobe's mum Kristie said. "They lined up on either side of the path out to the school gate, and 'We Will Rock You' was playing, and they were all stamping and clapping."
"You could feel the love that everybody had for him. It was beautiful."
Waking up crying
Kristie will never forget the morning, now two and a half years ago, when she heard Kobe crying in his bed.
Nothing could have prepared her for what she saw when she reached his bedroom door.
"It was time to get up, but he was crying, saying he couldn't lift his head and he couldn't get out of bed. I had to carry him," Kristie said.
Kobe, then aged 5, was a motorbike-riding, jet-skiing boy who had gone to bed feeling fine the night before, apart from a slight sniffle and a little cough.
Kristie also noticed Kobe had lost all the muscles in his neck and right arm, so she took him to their GP.
"The doctor was concerned about his breathing more than anything," Kristie recalls.
"He was rushed to hospital via ambulance, but within hours he became paralysed; he couldn't swallow, couldn't talk, couldn't move his right arm or left shoulder.
"He couldn't walk, and then within hours, he was intubated and sedated."
Kobe was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, a rare disease that affects the spinal cord, the part of the nervous system that carries messages to and from the brain.
Coming to terms
Family tries to adjust to new life
Wish parents Kristie and Michael are still adjusting to every day being different from their norm a couple of years ago.
"The diagnosis was terrifying, life-changing and heart-breaking," Kristie said.
"I don't have words to describe the emotions that we felt. The not knowing (what will happen). The why? We ask ourselves every day.
"I don't know if we have ever come to terms with it. We had to find a new way of being a family."
Kristie said Kobe struggled initially with the diagnosis and thought about the food he'd get when he was discharged. He wanted both sushi and McDonald's on the way home from the hospital.
He was also thinking about his sixth birthday party, which was scheduled for a week after he landed in the hospital. It was cancelled.
"He was in the hospital for 12 months, and then we were home for four months before he was readmitted," she said.
Packages brighten Kobe's days
During his many days in John Hunter Hospital, Kobe was entertained by watching YouTube.
His favourite YouTubers included Jake Paul, Chad Wild Clay, BiffleWiffle and Papa Jake.
"He's got a million of them," Kristie laughed. "We would have been lost without YouTube. It was a bit of an escape from what was happening."
Inspired by the lifestyles of these YouTube stars, Kobe wished to live like one – driving in a Lamborghini and staying in a big house.
"The wish kept him going, knowing it was coming and counting down the days," Kristie said.
"To have something so normal and not medical-related to look forward to just keeps you going."
Despite the inevitable disappointment of having his wish delayed, Kristie said Make-A-Wish had built up Kobe's anticipation, even sending a genuine model Lamborghini toy.
"It's been awesome to receive things in the mail," she said. "If we had a bad day and he received a package from Make-A-Wish, it just brightened his day. He had a smile from ear to ear.
"We all thought 'aww' when the wish was postponed, but it is what it is. We just had to wait."
Mansion fit for a YouTuber
Kobe's arrival at his mansion was a jaw-dropping moment for him and his family.
"His first reaction as we pulled up was 'wow'," Kristie said.
"The first thing he saw was the spa, and his face just lit up.
"And then it was the pool and the size of the rooms.
"He ran around the house, he's obviously ventilated, and he couldn't make it around the whole house. It was too big!"
Kobe's mansion included seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a basketball court, the pool and spa, a trampoline and a go-kart track.
Helping him live like a YouTuber was Kobe's best mate Lachlan, who visited on day 5 of his wish week.
"His absolute favourite thing was being surprised by his friend Lachlan," Kristie said.
"He had no idea that was happening. At 2pm, Lachlan arrived, then 3pm the limo arrived, and by 4pm, we were at laser tag.
"He was so stoked; he had no idea that Lachlan was coming."
Kristie said Kobe loved the whole wish, from start to finish.
"I asked him if it was what he had hoped for, and he said it was more than he hoped for."
Kristie echoed Kobe's thoughts, describing the wish as "perfect".
"Everybody from Make-A-Wish kept the momentum going throughout the COVID period, and never forgot about Kobe and his wish for a moment," she said.
"It was amazing; lifelong memories were made. We’re forever grateful for the memories that he was able to create.”
If we had a bad day and he received a package from Make-A-Wish, it just brightened his day. He had a smile from ear to earKristie Kobe's mum
The Wish Journey
How a wish comes to life
Make-A-Wish volunteers visit each child to capture their greatest wish, getting to the heart of what kids truly want and why. This profound insight is part of what makes Make-A-Wish unique, giving children full creative control and helping to shape their entire Wish Journey.
Back at Make-A-Wish HQ, we partner with families, volunteers and medical teams to design the ultimate wish experience - and start rallying our partners and supporters to help make it happen.
In the lead up to the wish, we take each child on a journey designed to build excitement and provide a welcome distraction from medical treatment. Anticipation can be incredibly powerful, helping to calm, distract and inspire sick kids at a time they need it most.
When the moment finally arrives, children get to experience their greatest wish come true - it's everything they've imagined and more. Pinch yourself, and don't forget to take a breath and enjoy every precious moment!
Wish impact studies show that a child's wish lives on, long after the moment. A wish gives more than just hope – with an incredible and lasting effect on the lives of sick kids, their families and wider communities.