By Alesha Capone
Six-year-old Willow joined Santa Claus to switch on the Christmas lights in Federation Square earlier this month.
Make-A-Wish Australia and the City of Melbourne organised for the young Point Cook resident to switch on the lights, accompanied by her parents Paul and Mary Bergman and siblings James, 20, Ellisha, 14, Lincoln, 12, and Amelia, nine.
Willow, who has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, underwent open-heart surgery when she was just six days old.
Since then, she has been through another three surgeries.
Mr and Mrs Bergman said that Make-A-Wish Australia has been working to grant Willow’s wish of swimming with Nemo and Dory, from the Finding Nemo films, in the ocean.
When this was put hold due to COVID-19, Make-A-Wish arranged for Willow to turn on the Federation Square lights.
“We’ve never seen her so excited, she started dancing around and wouldn’t stop,” Mr Bergman said.
“She keeps reliving the story at school and re-telling the teachers about talking to Santa,” Mrs Bergman added.
They said that due to Willow’s condition, she effectively has half a heart doing the job of a whole heart, which means she has lower oxygen levels flowing to her lungs than most other people.
“Willow’s a very happy kid and she’s very active, even though with her condition she tires out fairly easily,” Mr Bergman said.
“We call her Willow the Warrior because she fights so hard and never gives up.”
Mrs Bergman said that Willow, who loves swimming and playing T-ball, worked hard on her cardiovascular fitness with the help of a physiotherapist.
Mr Bergman said Willow developed her wish to go swimming with Nemo and Dory because she has spent a lot of time at The Royal Children’s Hospital, where she enjoyed watching fish in a large aquarium.
During the pandemic, Make-A-Wish has sent Willow postcards from Nemo, colouring-in items and a video showing her around the Cairns Aquarium.
“We are very thankful for the support of charities like Make-A-Wish and Hearts Kids Australia, they make it easier for families going through these things,” Mr Bergman said.