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Growing up as a patient with congenital heart disease, Brandon Lane Phillips often felt alone. He knew no one else who had his heart condition and believed no one understood his condition. Brandon believed he would die young. Like many congenital heart patients, he wondered if he would have a long life. It is only natural to question one’s mortality when open-heart surgery is what enabled you to survive childhood.
Brandon worried that his heart defect caused his parents’ divorce and questioned just how much his illness had affected his siblings since so much extra attention was devoted to him. He longed to have the type of close relationship with his father that he saw on many of his favorite TV shows.
At 11 years of age, he was so desperate to find answers that he asked God to show him that He loved him. Soon after, he received a wish to meet child actor Jeremy Miller from TV’s Growing Pains. Brandon had wished to meet him because he envied his “perfect” fictional family. After one of the show’s stars told Brandon that God had a plan for his life, Brandon left the set that evening feeling that the trip had been orchestrated as an answer to his prayer.
There are several God-like coincidences that occur along Brandon’s path of becoming a pediatric cardiologist. Many times when Brandon would face a life experience big enough to shake his faith, an improbable experience would occur that would remind him of his wish and God’s answer to his prayer. Throughout his career, he would encounter other patients who felt alone and had questions about their own mortality.
Brandon chose medicine as his profession because he greatly admired his childhood pediatric cardiologist. And even though a need for a second open-heart surgery at the beginning of medical school threatened Brandon’s dream of becoming a physician, he would ultimately be trained by the very physicians who had cared for him.
Brandon’s journey of hope found within the pages of When I Wished Upon a Star is a story of giving back and finding purpose in life through the intervention of God’s great grace and perfect timing.
The other life examined in this book belongs to Jeremy Miller, child actor, celebrity wish, and the friend who played an important role in Brandon’s journey. Brandon’s life truly changed forever after having met Jeremy on the television set of Growing Pains.
While Brandon was dealing with his struggles, so too was Jeremy. In When I Wished Upon a Star, Jeremy shares “secrets” from his childhood that have previously gone untold. It would be easy to say that Jeremy was a child star, and that historically, most child stars aren’t expected to have a good end. Still Jeremy’s secrets shocked Brandon and brought him to tears. They also shed light on the reason for Jeremy’s battle with alcohol. Brandon would learn that Jeremy, too, envied the life that his fictional character lived. And so when the TV show ended, Jeremy almost did too.
At the time of his wish, only God could have predicted how Brandon’s life and those of the stars of his favorite TV show would intertwine in the decades to follow; no one could have foreseen that a wish made by a young boy would give both he and Jeremy hope for their future and help them find purpose in the lives they were created for by a loving God--lives that would live on despite troubles and despair.
Brandon was meant to use the experiences of his childhood to help others. It is the only way to explain how his life has come full circle time and time again.