Cole Derkson gets his wish after heart attack


Getting to go to Walt Disney World would sound like a pretty sweet deal to many kids. Going on that same trip with all expenses paid? Yes please.

For 13-year-old Cole Derkson, the Children’s Wish Foundation – a non-profit organization that specializes in granting wishes – is turning the latter into reality.

Children’s Wish is sending Cole and his family to Orlando, Florida on March 19.

“I asked to go to Disney World again, because the last time we went we had so much fun. We got to go as a whole family in 2009,” Cole said.

Produced by: April Ip

His parents have since separated but will both be going.

Cole has lived with a heart condition most of his life, and suffered a heart attack in the summer of 2010. The youngster was living in Edmonton on an artificial heart for one year before receiving a heart transplant.

Cole’s mother, Vicky Derkson, recalled that Cole first experienced heart failure at two months old.

Cole’s condition is called cardiomyopathy – which is the deterioration of the heart muscle. Vicky said that many people with this are at risk for sudden cardiac death.

“We’ve been grateful that it was been stable for so many years,” Vicky said.


She explained that it wasn’t until June 2010 that his condition flared up and she got a call from his school saying he had stopped breathing.

The heart attack affected many of Cole’s motor skills – eating, drinking and medications are now ingested through a G-tube attached to his stomach.

Cole’s part-time caregiver, Julie Kaukinen, said that different medications are needed throughout the day. “Every hour I make sure Cole gets his injections – many of these include anti-rejection medicines to help stabilize his new heart.”

Before moving back to Calgary last year, Vicky divulged that Cole lived in Edmonton for 16 months with an artificial heart called a Berlin.

“Cole’s dad moved up to Edmonton for the first four months, while Cole was waiting for his heart transplant,” she said.

Between the constant commuting from Calgary to Edmonton, taking care of her other young sons and working an office job, Vicky said “our whole world was turned upside down.”

Big steps for small feet


In the past six months, Cole has made big steps toward regaining his motor skills. He is now able to sit up on his own, can play games on the Nintendo Wii and DS systems and communicates via an Echo computer.The Derkson family, left to right, Chris, Kyle, Vicky and Cole. Thirteen-year-old Cole, who has a condition with his heart muscle, will be going to Walt Disney World courtesy of the Children’s Wish Foundation.
Photo by: April Ip

Vicky said he uses a walker at school and the family is currently in the process of getting him an electric wheelchair.

Prior to June 2010, Cole was an active basketball and hockey player.

Having been a member of the Townsend Tigers, junior-high school team, Cole continued playing hockey even in a wheelchair.

“He recently participated in the annual Wheelchair Hockey Challenge against the Calgary Flames and the Townsend Tigers and won,” Vicky said proudly.

She elaborates that much of the family’s financial needs – such as an electric wheelchair and ramp built outside their home – would not have been met if not for supportive friends and family, and numerous children’s foundations.

“Foundations like the Children’s Wish Foundation have been a great blessing,” Vicky said.

A social worker at the hospital pointed her in the right direction when it came to qualifying Cole for a Children’s Wish.

The organization is dedicated to turning around one-time wishes for kids with life-threatening illnesses. New bedrooms, ponies and trips are often up for grabs.

When asked what the family was most looking forward to, Cole’s brother Chris Derkson excitedly said they couldn’t wait for the Tower of Terror and the Yeti rides.

Chantal Macleod, Children’s Wish communications co-ordinator, said that Cole’s wish came through in November 2011 – as transplant receivers are required to wait one year before travelling, the wish was granted for 2012.

The Derkson family trip also, coincidently, marks the one-year date of Cole’s release from the hospital.

CORRECTION: Chantal Macleod’s first name was misspelled as Chantel. We apologize for the error.

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