Mistissini’s Laykeshia Blacksmith was only 10 days old the first time she underwent an operation to replace the aortic valve of her heart. A second operation followed when she was three months old, and a third three months after that.
Now 11, Laykeshia lives a normal life – for the most part. But aortic valve stenosis – a disease that prevents the aortic valve of the heart from growing with the rest of the body – is part of her daily reality.
Despite the health challenges, Laykeshia’s mom, Queenie Blacksmith, says her daughter is like any other kid in Mistissini.
Except for a recent trip to Hoboken, New Jersey, that is. Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children who live with life-threatening conditions, Laykeshia visited the set and star of the popular TLC reality show Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro.
“It was absolutely fun,” said Queenie of her daughter’s trip. “She had an awesome time. When we first walked in, the Cake Boss assistants gave us a tour. We were in the bakery area, just talking, and all of a sudden – it was such a surprise for Laykeshia – Buddy walked in. Laykeshia was all smiling. She couldn’t believe it. She said, ‘I feel like this is just a dream.’”
The family got the news Laykeshia would be getting her wish granted by Make-A-Wish in 2011.
“I asked her what her dream was and explained to her what was going to happen,” Queenie recounted. “She was seven or eight when she first started watching Cake Boss, so I knew what would happen from there.”
The trip was everything that Laykeshia hoped it would be. Her mom reported that Valastro was a nice, sweet guy, and that when she met him, Laykeshia was equal parts excited and shy.
“She’s the shy girl anyway, in our family!” laughed Queenie.
Laykeshia has another surgery coming up soon to install a fresh valve for her heart.
“She finds the surgeries frightening,” said Queenie. “Sometimes she talks about it. She questions me and her dad. She asks so many questions, and sometimes she wants us to tell her her future. But we’ll see.”