East Grand Rapids teen battling life-threatening illness granted wish to visit dude ranch

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, MI — In her 15 years, Megan Morrill hasn’t known what it’s like to not be sick.

The East Grand Rapids High School student battles cystinosis, a life-threatening disease that causes the amino acid cysteine to accumulate in her kidneys, eyes, pancreas and white blood cells, and can lead to kidney failure. Thanks to Kids Wish Network, she took a well-deserved break from her illness in June and spent a week alongside cowboys at a Wyoming dude ranch.

Megan was diagnosed with cystinosis when she was 3 years old and has spent her life dealing with injections, a feeding tube and kidney complications that led to a successful transplant two years ago. Doctors told her she would get a wish granted, so she waited patiently through the dialysis.

Riding has been therapeutic for Megan since she first got on a horse at 6 years old. Her mother, Jill Morrill, said it gives her a breath of fresh air – a way to forget about the medications and frequent hospital visits.

“She’s always said when she’s at the barn she never feels sick. It’s really her therapy because she’s in control of something so big and powerful for once,” Morrill said. “She doesn’t have much control of her health sometimes.”

Because Megan isn’t terminally ill, she wasn’t eligible to have her wish granted through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Morrill said she is grateful her daughter’s condition isn’t terminal, but she wanted Megan to receive what she had waited so long for.

Morrill heard about the Kids Wish Network through a radio commercial. The nonprofit grants wishes to children with life-threatening conditions and also helps those who are victims of tragic situations, such as burns and sexual abuse.

In June, Kids Wish Network sent Megan, her parents and 13-year-old brother to the R Lazy S Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The Morrills spent their first real family vacation at the foothills of the picturesque Grand Teton mountains. Megan was in her element.

The staff at the ranch became like family, Morrill said. They spent about five hours a day on horseback, playing games and riding into the mountains. Morrill and her husband found themselves in tears at one point when the staff, impressed with Megan’s riding ability, asked her to help wrangle in 80 horses early one morning.

Seeing her daughter confident made Morrill realize how far she’s come: from relying on a feeding tube for 10 years to having energy and strength.

“To see the cowboys screaming their heads off at the horses, and there goes Megan with her blonde hair flying full gallop … It’s great to see her feeling so good,” Morrill said.

Megan’s kidney is fully functioning after the transplant, and if her determination to ride is any indication of her health, she’s doing well.

The family hadn’t been home from the dude ranch for more than two hours when Megan was already on her horse at Meadowview Farms, a ranch in Lowell. She spends five days a week riding and occasionally competes. She’ll ride in a Lowell 4-H fair this August.

Megan will eventually need another kidney transplant. But for now, the Morrill family is enjoying the peacefulness.

Grand Rapids Press
Grand Rapids, Michigan

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48,632 kids helped this last fiscal year through our many programs and services.

Our Mission

Kids Wish Network is a charitable organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children having experienced life-altering situations. Kids Wish Network assists children and their families through several key programs.