Just like the average teenager, Tommy Serna, 15, loves his computer and video games.
But unlike the average teenager, he has endured challenges that far outnumber his years, said his family.
The Bellflower High School student was born with osteogenesis imperfecta – a condition that causes extremely fragile bones, also known as brittle bone disease.
“I don’t really talk about my disability,” he said. “Besides walking, I’m like any other person. With my disability, I could walk, but I break easy so I don’t, and I don’t do a lot of sports.”
When Tommy’s story was brought to the attention of Kids Wish Network, an international charitable organization that helps create happy memories and improves the quality of life for children experiencing life-altering situations, he was chosen to be the recipient of a wish of his choosing.
Tommy’s wish? A new bedroom, with a comfortable bed to help ease the pain that he deals with on a daily basis.
“These kids have been through so much. … He has had, literally, hundreds of broken bones,” said Jill Atchison, Tommy’s wish coordinator with Kids Wish. “It’s so important to make them feel normal for a day and forget about the doctors and the needles and the hospital fees.”
As long as she can remember, Tommy’s mother, Christy Easley, has told her son he was no different than anyone else.
“I’ve always taught him that he’s just like every other kid and to not let his disability get him down,” she said. “There is always stuff in life that he can do where he can be just like everybody else, so I’ve never treated him like something was wrong with him. I’ve always treated him like all his other brothers.”
It was an exciting day for Tommy as he eyed the bed Tuesday in his newly redesigned bedroom.
“The first thing I’m going to do is sleep. I haven’t slept on a good bed in years,” Tommy said. “I used to sleep on a good mattress, but ever since I had so many surgeries I couldn’t get on them because they were too high, but this bed is good for me.”
Kids Wish Network reached out to Alicia Friedmann Design, a local design company, to perform the bedroom makeover. Several other local businesses donated the necessary supplies.
“To make it a comfortable haven for him was our top priority,” said Alicia Friedmann.
Friedmann and her husband, Brian Wiltjer, who spearheaded the design for Tommy, assembled the room with a little help from Tommy’s younger brother.
“I like my new room a lot. They gave me everything I wanted, ” Tommy said. “I wished for a room because in my condition it’s not really fun riding on rides (at an amusement park), so I decided a room would be better and it will last longer.”
Throughout his short life, Tommy has endured so many surgeries and has dealt with so many broken and fractured bones that he’s lost count.
“I’ve had more than 15 surgeries – and more breaks than surgeries,” he said.
Although Tommy, who taught himself to use computers, is confined to a wheelchair, he stays busy creating his own website, said his mom.
“It has been challenging, but he’s come a long way. He’s a good kid,” she said.
Tommy also loves history and science and wants to be a computer programmer when he grows up. The key is to simply believe in yourself, he said.
“Others tend to be insecure about themselves. I’m not,” he said. “I just think you have to live like everyone else – with your condition. You just have to think outside of it.”
Long Beach Press-Telegram
Long Beach, California