Georgy Ferris ‘Christmas wish list was a bit different from the others’ list, and most of them paid off before December 25th, thanks in part to the kindness of a stranger.
The 24-year-old wanted only happy experiences for Christmas, to create memories for her family to cherish when she’s not here.
Ferris, who lives in Nelson, has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). The disease is not usually fatal in and of itself, but people can die of complications .. She is in hospice care, and while she hopes to see her 25th birthday in May, this is not guaranteed.
“I was diagnosed four years ago after a lot of harmful misdiagnoses and personal trauma. Doctors refused to treat me for years, but when I was finally diagnosed with EDS, everything seemed to change.
“Unfortunately in my case, the disease caused the failure of my stomach and small and large intestine. I am unable to digest and absorb nutrients, and I rely on parenteral nutrition through a central line in my chest.”
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Things got more complicated when she contracted mast cell activation syndrome (caused by EDS) which led to a severe allergic reaction to the parenteral nutrition that was keeping her alive.
After she contracted neutropenia septicemia in June of this year, her body was unable to recover, and she was placed in the care of the elderly.
EDS has put a lot of stress on her heart and lungs making her periodically dependent on oxygen. It is not unusual for her to suffer from joint dislocations because the collagen in her body is not strong enough to hold her joints in place.
Once in hospice care, her medical team encouraged her to complete her bucket list while she still could: cruise with her cousins in Christchurch, jet-boating in Queenstown, and meeting Brody Kane (and her mom, Joe, as a bonus) she even managed to parachute into Abel Tasman when she was doing well.
Thanks to her medical team, friends and family, Ferris has managed to fulfill most of her dreams.
“I feel very fortunate that despite the circumstances we’re in, I’ve been able to do a lot. Lots of people die unexpectedly, but for me, my family and I just got time.
“Even though my life expectancy is shorter than others, I have the opportunity to have some fun and spend this time with my loved ones. It’s been a tough ride but I’ve rallied a lot in these 24 years – and even more over the past few months.” .
One of the last things on her list was a trip to Auckland with her family and two friends – to stay in a five-star hotel and define some of her ultimate dreams. Thanks to a chance encounter, her wish was fulfilled before she became seriously ill from flying.
Ferris followed Nelson caterer Relish & Rhubarb, run by Mel Turnbull, on Instagram for about a year, drooling over herding bowls when a close family member asked her for a gift for her.
“The plate was delivered to the wrong house,” Ferris says. “And we’re really happy about that, otherwise, Mel would never have decided to offer a replacement herself, and we’d never have met her.”
From Turnbull’s point of view, she couldn’t help but leave thinking about how she could help Ferris pull off the final set roster items.
“I immediately felt at home with Georgie and her family, and I could see what kind of girl she was with some of the little things on the little things menu – to prepare a meal for the staff at Ronald McDonald House, to bake a cake with her aunt.
“I couldn’t believe she was so positive, generous and optimistic despite everything she’s been through, and she’s still going through now.”
Although Turnbull couldn’t finance the Auckland trip on its own, as Covid hit the business like many others, she knew it had a platform that could help.
“I knew we could do auctions on our Instagram page, so I made Georgie make a small video, and her warmth obviously faded as many local businesses joined this page and donated things that we could auction off.”
After the first auction – of nine – they already had enough flights and accommodations for Ferris’ mother, sister, and three friends to go to Oakland and stay at Hilton.
“I didn’t quite believe it – it happened very quickly,” Ferris says. “The first auction was on Monday and in a couple of weeks we were in Oakland. It was incredible. Mel is such a wonderful human being, and we can’t believe we haven’t known her for less than two months. She feels like we have known her forever.”
Turnbull and her family understand the loss so well that her brother-in-law nearly three years ago died of cancer.
“Our family knows how important making memories is, and it is so wonderful that Georgie creates all these experiences that her family has to return to,” she says.
“We tried to fulfill all the desires of my sister-in-law but it wasn’t entirely possible. In fact his birthday was the day I first met Georgie, so I was really touched when I heard her story and knew I wanted to do something to help if I could.”
There are still a few things left on Ferris’ wish list – like meeting Jacinda Ardern, taking a Northern Explorer train ride, seeing a real zebra swimming with dolphins and completing 13 random acts of kindness – but she’s now satisfied with the way so much of a bonfire in just six months. An example of how to live life to the fullest.