Grandfather Asks Granddaughter with Rare, Terminal Disease to Prom: 'She's Just Worthy of Love'
04/27/2016 AT 04:30 PM EDT
It's a rite of passage many girls dream of, and one that the young girl from Saint Paul, Minnesota, was invited to experience early by her grandfather – as there's no guarantee she'll make it to her teens.
"It isn't going to be an option for her to do in a few years, and we don’t know what that timeline is, so doing something like that right now that she's capable of doing and have joy makes all the sense in the world," Lydia's father, Todd Wahlstrom told WCCO.
Lydia and her 8-year-old brother, Drew, both have an extremely rare genetic disorder called Batten disease, which causes blindness, seizures, personality and behavioral changes, dementia, the loss of motor skills and the ability to communicate. Lydia and Drew's form of Batten disease kills in the teens or early twenties.
"It takes away functions of the brain, she will lose her ability to walk, to talk, to eat and to think, she will end up simply what we call a vegetable," Lydia's grandfather, Paul Magelssen told WDAZ.
The progressive disease has already claimed Lydia's vision and has led to enough neurological degeneration that she was declared mentally impaired.
Knowing his granddaughter's disease would rob her of many of life's most precious moments, Magelssen invited his granddaughter to a local prom in Fosston, Minnesota.
"We spend a lot of time grieving what she won't be able to do; there will be no weddings, no children, no prom at the time she is supposed to go, and so it’s just one of those events," he explained. "Right now, this weekend, she's going to have this opportunity to walk in as a princess, and she loves being a princess, and she thinks she is going to a ball."
The pastor invited his granddaughter to the event he called a "ball" with a formal invitation written in Braille in a card she could feel.
"He invited her to the ball and she just lit up" her mom, Laura Wahlstrom recalled to WCCO.
Being able to share this with his granddaughter means the world to Magelssen, too. "She's a gift, she's been a buddy, she's just worthy of love," he told WDAZ with tears in his eyes.
When the Fosston community learned about Lydia's big night, several strangers came forward to ensure the experience was as special as possible for the young girl. Community members donated everything from hair and makeup services to a limo ride to accessories.
"It's a great show of what this disease has brought about, because the disease is ugly and there’s not much good you can say about it," Laura told WCCO. "But I think we can say that we have been blessed and can see such good things in community."