Nick Santillo has spent too many of his eight years undergoing life-saving surgeries. But on Monday, one of his biggest wishes was granted when he got to meet his idol, WWE champion wrestler John Cena, as part of Make-a-Wish Foundation's World Wish Day.
Nick has a rare congenital defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means that half of his heart is dangerously underdeveloped. He underwent his first open heart surgery when he was only six days old.
“He was given about a month to live without the surgeries,” his dad Mark Santillo told the Today Show. “We prayed and prayed and prayed for the best.”
Last November, Nick nearly lost his life when two of his veins burst, filling his lung with blood.
“Honestly I thought he would die,” Mark Santillo told the Today Show. “We didn’t know what to do.”
“And he took it all in stride,” he added. “He just wanted to know when we’re going to get home. He’s the strong one – we’re the ones who do the crying and the worrying.”
Now an active kid, Nick appeared on the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda this Monday with the help of the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Nick’s eyes lit up as his idol walked across the stage.
"Nick, what's up?" said Cena as he shook the boy’s hand. "I'm a huge fan. It's awesome to finally meet you.”
Nick was speechless as Cena asked to take a seat by his side.
"Actually, can you hold onto this for a second for me?" Cena took his gold champion belt and placed it in Nick’s hands. "I just came in from Poland actually to see you. I heard this was your special day, and I wanted to congratulate you and say it's World Wish Day, and I heard you were a big fan of WWE. They said you were a fan of me -- is that true?"
Nick nodded eagerly. By the time that he and his family left the show, they had an invitation to be Cena’s special guests at Monday Night Raw.