When Zailynn Mars was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at 5 months old, her parents were obviously heartbroken and devastated. But they also knew that they wanted to fill their daughter’s short life with as much living as possible.
The now eight-month-old baby girl was given an estimated two years to live. Spinal muscular atrophy affects the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, which means that Zailynn can no longer hold up her head like she was just able to do a few months ago. Over time, she will lose her ability to eat and breathe.
Her parents want her to experience life’s major moments and have created a bucket list of 51 events and activities for Zailynn to enjoy, and for them to enjoy with her.
“A father, to be a little girl, it’s heartbreaking. […] We’re making the best of the situation as possible. […] Children that have SMA, there’s a quality of life you have to decide as a parent,” Chris Mars, Zailynn’s father told ABC. “We want her to be happy and experience the fun things. When it comes to her staying in a hospital more time than she’s been out of a hospital, that’s where I draw the line.”
Zailynn must do therapies each day and lay flat 95% of the time in order to keep her lungs clear. But that won’t stop the family from reaching their goals. So far they have crossed items off the bucket list including visiting the Milwaukee Zoo, a farm, and a children’s museum. Her father was even able to walk her down the aisle when they attended a friend’s wedding.
“Number one is to have daddy walk me down the aisle,” Mars explained. “Being able to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding is the best thing I’d ever do that I’d never be able to do.”
The family also has a prom scheduled, as well as family pictures, sibling pictures, a first birthday party, and singing karaoke with her daddy.
“I’m very excited for her to be able to enjoy us holding her and dancing with her. […] And seeing other kids with her because she loves other kids,” said her mother Katie Mars. “She just lights up and smiles. And she loves to giggle. And it will mean the world to me.”
Items left on the bucket list include a trip to Disneyland, raising awareness of spinal muscular atrophy on the Ellen show, a boat ride, and visiting the ocean. Her family and friends are doing all they can to celebrate Zailynn’s life in the time they’ve been given with her, and not take a single moment for granted.