BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- To meet Maggie Herrett is to know what a pink tornado looks like. From her light-up-in-the-dark cowgirl boots, a deep rose pink, to her boundless energy, she is all girl at just five years old.
On the outside, Maggie might be all smiles, but inside is another matter.
"She itches and doesn't complain," says dad Matt. "I'd switch places with her if I could."
The shorthand for Maggie's condition is that her liver doesn't function the way it should. Hence, the itching.
It happens when bile backs up into the blood stream. Before a surgery that both parents initially questioned because it didn't guarantee a cure, the itching was so unbearable, Maggie was tearing out her hair.
Her mom, Megan, blamed herself.
"Was it something I did?" she remembers asking over and over. "Because kids shouldn't be sick. And so to see that, it's a very hard thing to deal with."
The most frustrating aspect of Maggie's condition is that, even after several years of treatment, and after daily doses of several kinds of medications, Maggie's doctors still don't know precisely what's wrong.
Matt says with a weary knowingness, "We still don't fully have a diagnosis, although we have a pretty good idea what it is."
To look at Maggie laughing and giggling from a front yard swing, you would never have an inkling of the suffering the poor child has been through. And that is also true of Matt and Megan. Raising Maggie has been a lesson in perseverance and taking things one day at a time.
"I have really dwelled on the what-if's," admits Megan. "What if she needs a transplant or what if she doesn't make it? Is she going to get married and have kids of her own? They're all things that weigh pretty heavily."
Needing a break from the daily pressures of caring for a sick child and needing to feel like a normal family, even for a few days, the Herrett's turned to the Make-a-Wish Foundation in Boise.
At first, they were reluctant to participate because it meant being more public about their daughter's condition and they had always taken great pains to make sure Maggie didn't see herself as different from any other little girl.
But Make-a-Wish saw in Maggie a very deserving child, and Matt beams as he tells the story.
"They came to the house and asked if she could go anywhere, where would she go? Her wish was to go to Disney World. That's what we did."
Megan says Maggie was set on going to the "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique" for a Disney-certified makeover. Her wish: to look and, therefore feel, like a princess.
"It's called the Magic Kingdom for a reason, like it's just a magical place," says Megan.
Pictures on the mantel are all the proof you need that the Disney World adventure was like a wonder drug. Maggie in the photos is a carefree kid, surrendering to the "glass slipper" experience that Disney has practically patented.
Matt remembers the trip slightly differently. He says the place where they stayed, a haven for other Make-a-Wish kids, was a revelation and the part he loved best.
For the first time, he says, Maggie was able to meet another kid, just like her, with a colostomy bag. It's the one thing about Maggie's condition that gives her parents pause. As she gets older, they worry her situation might make her the target of taunts and childish pranks.
For Make-a-Wish Foundation Idaho's CEO Torene Bonner, the Herrett's concerns are familiar, but no less heart-breaking.
"They just cherish the family," Bonner tells me on a walk through the neighborhood. "And they just want to do whatever they can for Maggie and she just brings joy to their life."
When asked to describe Maggie, Bonner doesn't hesitate.
"Delightful. She's got such a spirit and is such a sweet child."
Maggie sits in the kitchen goofing with an apple slice in her mouth that covers her teeth. It's a moment of theatrics as fresh as that apple, and a signal that Maggie, for all she truly knows deep-down about her condition, isn't about to let it run her life.
Megan tears up as she thinks about her daughter's past five years.
"She's very smart. She's a really strong person. She's been through more in her short life than I've been through in mine."
Matt says Megan has been his rock throughout and when Megan hears that, she suddenly grows quiet and you can almost read the pain in her face as the years flash by in that moment.
She wipes away a few tears and then admits, "You have ideas of what your life is going to be like and what your kids are going to do and you have to adapt. That can be kind of challenging."
The trip to Disney World was a wish deeply-hoped-for. And both Megan and Matt pray the magic stays with them a while longer.
(Editor's note: Join KBOI 2News on Tuesday, December 10th, for the "Wishes in Flight" Telethon. You can donate unused airline miles to the Make-a-Wish Foundation to ensure other deserving kids in the Treasure Valley get their wishes granted just like Maggie. Phones will be manned throughout the day, during newscasts at 6 through 7:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and again at 4 , 4:30 and 5:30 p.m.)