Local ESPN ‘My Wish’ recipient giving back 10 years later

From the Local 5 Digital Desk

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – In 2010, then 10-year-old Anna Schmidt of Horicon, Wisconsin got a once in a lifetime experience with the Green Bay Packers.

In December of 2009, Schmidt was experiencing constant stomach aches and thought it was just anxiety that she was having from school.

After one bad stomach ache that had her vomiting during the middle of the night, Schmidt’s family took her to the emergency room and soon after found out her life was going to change forever.

“They did a CT scan at Hartford Hospital in Wisconsin and found out that my heart was enlarged three times the size it was supposed to be. Which makes sense because it was pushing down on my diaphragm and giving me a stomach ache”, explains Schmidt.

Schmidt and her family were sent to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee and that’s when the doctors gave the family the news that Anna needed a heart transplant.

Being so young and going through such a tough experience, Schmidt struggled to keep positive but it was her friends and family that kept her going.

“I was in so much pain, that I just wanted to pass”, says Schmidt. “There was one night that the doctors told my dad and my mom that I had a very slim chance, like less than eight percent, and that they should gather family to say goodbye.”

After Schmidt was told from doctors that she only had around 12 hours to live, there was one thing she wanted to see and it was her dog, Max. What made that a struggle was there were hospital restrictions in letting dogs in to visit patients.

“My dad called the vet up at 2:00 in the morning, got his shots, and brought him down by me. After that, my numbers raised by 80 percent. From that day, my doctors were like ‘this dog needs to be here everyday'”, Schmidt said.

After 110 days of searching for an organ donor, Schmidt got the news her and her family have been hoping for.

“When we got the call that the heart had become available, it makes you want to jump for joy but also scary because you don’t know if she’s going to make it through surgery. You also realize that another family has lost their child”, says father Brian Schmidt.

A 17-hour surgery that consisted of 30 different doctors in the operation was done and successful. Anna’s parents tell Local 5 that they were amazed on how quick she recovered. Schmidt was out of the hospital in just two weeks.

Schmidt’s sister reached out to ESPN about Anna’s story and ESPN was immediately interested to make her wish come true through their ‘My Wish’ series. Anna instantly thought of a shopping spree, a trip to Hawaii, or to meet teenage phenomenon Justin Bieber.

Schmidt’s brother had a brain tumor when he was born so Anna wanted something that both of them could enjoy and remember forever. After thinking long and hard, her dream was to meet Al Harris and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

“I think I was about 9-years-old and my dad and brother were yelling at the TV while watching the Packer game. I went up to the TV and I pointed to this guy and I was like ‘who’s that?’ and my dad’s like ‘with the dreadlocks?’. I said ‘yeah with the dreadlocks’. My dad said ‘that’s Al Harris, that’s our cornerback’. I said to him ‘that’s my favorite player'”, Schmidt recalls when talking about her childhood favorite player.

Anna says she remembers everything from that day because it’s simply unforgettable. Her and her family got to watch the Packers at training camp, tour Lambeau Field, she got to ride bikes with Aaron Rodgers, eat lunch with Rodgers and Al Harris, and so much more.

“It was so fun because they are such a class act group of guys. Just so nice and every single one of them made me feel special and made me feel like they wanted to talk to me”, Schmidt says.

One of the coolest things from that day that Anna recalls was that Donald Driver was taking the day off from practice but after Driver heard hat he was Anna’s brother’s favorite player, Driver came in on his off day just to spend time and meet the family.

One of the things Anna recalls and still laughs about to this day?

“I thought that they ate like a ton but Aaron Rodgers only ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that day so I was surprised”, Schmidt says laughing.

Reflecting on that special day, Schmidt tells Local 5 that the Packers gave her hope for her future.

“I really didn’t feel like I would return to normal. I was still struggling with walking far distances. Just seeing them, I pictured them as little kids and they had this dream once. I can dream big too. It definitely instilled a sense of hope and I still hold that today. They gave me hope”, Schmidt says.

Now in 2021, 23-year-old Anna Schmidt is going to college as a Pediatric Cardiologist. Giving back was part of her mindset when deciding what she wanted to go to school for but it’s deeper than that.

“I don’t know if I want to give back as much as I want to be exactly like the Cardiologist that I had because my Cardiologists were so amazing and they inspired me to be what I’m going to school for”, Schmidt expressed.

During the fall of 2020, Schmidt tested positive for COVID-19 and had to stay in the hospital for about a week.

“There were blood clots in my legs, in my lungs, and it affected my heart a little bit. I still have residual fluid built up around my lungs and heart but it is deducing day by day so I am good”, says Schmidt.

Since Schmidt’s ‘My Wish’ episode aired on ESPN in 2011, she tells Local 5 that she’s been contacted all throughout the United States and different countries. She received letters that she said were very much appreciated.

Now Schmidt’s doing frequent speeches for ‘Make-A-Wish’ and Children’s Hospital.

“It’s a gift that keeps on giving because I love doing this stuff and I think it’s going to help me in my future”, Schmidt says.

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