Jon Ostrand thought he was in big trouble Friday when he was called out of his class at Vista Murrieta High School and told to go to another classroom.
Jon, 17, a senior at the high school in Murrieta, had no idea that a large group of friends, family and well-wishers was quietly waiting to spring a surprise on him: The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Orange County and the Inland Empire had granted his wish and was ready to take Jon on a shopping spree for the rest of the day at the Promenade Mall in Temecula.
A definite stop on the trip: the Apple store.
“I thought I was in huge trouble! I’m OK!” Jon assured the crowd after he walked into the classroom and was greeted with cheers, balloons and hugs from friends, his grandparents and younger brother Joseph, a freshman at Vista Murrieta.
Everyone in the room joked that they worried they were giving Jon a heart attack by surprising him – and it sort of wasn’t funny.
But everyone did laugh, including Jon, who teased, “I’m on the verge of a heart attack.”
School officials in the room teased back, “Don’t say that!”
Since childhood, Jon has struggled with a genetic heart condition that causes his heart to beat fast and irregularly.
A pacemaker-type device implanted in his body regulates Jon’s heartbeat. If his heart stops or acts up, the device delivers a shock to regulate it.
The condition causes fatigue and other health troubles, including a total collapse Jon had three years ago, but Jon’s family and school friends said he takes it all in stride and does his best.
“He’s a kind soul. He’s amazing. His condition has given him a perspective of life; it almost makes him a better person,” said Denise Knight, a para-educator at Vista Murrieta High who works with Jon and was among those who celebrated Jon’s Make-A-Wish gift Friday at the school.
Jon’s family has had other struggles as well. His parents are living in Denver with Jon’s eight-year-old sister, who had a heart transplant as a five-month-old baby and now needs another heart transplant, said Jon’s grandmother, Bridget Ostrand.
While Jon’s parents and sister await the possible transplant in Denver pending a resolution of insurance issues, Jon and his brother Joseph live with their grandparents in Murrieta and attend high school at Vista Murrieta.
Jon’s parents wrote to the Make-A-Wish-Foundation about Jon’s wish to visit England, and the charity had granted that wish.
It was logistically impossible, however, because his parents couldn’t go considering Jon’s sister is so ill, his grandmother said.
Jon said that was OK, instead, he’d be happy with a shopping spree at the mall, and that wish was granted too.
“This family has struggled immensely and they are hard-knock survivors,” Bridget Ostrand said.
It was party time Friday morning when charity “wish granters” Dina Duran and Michael Sandler showed up to take Jon from the campus to the mall in a white stretch limo.
After a few more rounds of hugs, jokes and good-byes, Jon and his family walked past a line of cheering students, ducked into the limo and headed off for a day of shopping.
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.