A dream came true Oct. 19 for Airdrie’s Koral Barker, who was born with a rare liver disease called Biliary Atresia and required a liver transplant at just eight months old.
Barker, now nine years old, was granted a wish to go on a Disney Caribbean Cruise by the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, which came to surprise Barker in front of her classmates at Nose Creek Elementary School.
The Children’s Wish Foundation grants wishes to Canadian children between three and 17 years old who are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.
“She’s kind of like one of those deer in headlight kids when she gets surprise news, so she was kind of shocked,” said Barker’s mom, Keri, who was also there for the announcement. “I think the realization sunk in the night that we were leaving. She was so excited.”
Barker, Keri and Barker’s dad, Darrin, packed their bags and left the next morning for a seven-day western Caribbean cruise, which included stops in Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Jamaica.
“It was amazing. She just loved it. It was the first time that she saw the ocean or (had) even been in the ocean so that alone added to the excitement of it,” Keri said.
“I don’t think we were dry once just because she was constantly either in the pool or the ocean snorkeling, swimming…. She was in her element, that’s for sure.”
Barker wished for a Disney Caribbean Cruise in January after it was suggested to Keri during one of Barker’s regular checkups. Keri said she found out Barker’s wish had been granted in June but had to keep it a secret until the announcement was made. She said she cried when she received the news.
“It was just special because a trip like this we could never either afford to do or feel safe to do on our own because she is immune compromised (so) she can’t get travel insurance for health,” she said, adding the Children’s Wish Foundation was able to provide travel insurance for Barker.
“She basically was born with little or no bile ducts. So everything backed up into her liver and she needed a liver transplant when she was eight months old…. She had her first operation when she was three months to try to correct things but it was too late at that time and her liver was too badly damaged.”
Barker needed a new liver and was put on a donor list but got really sick while waiting. Keri looked into being a donor and found out she was a match and donated 20 per cent of her liver to Barker.
Keri said Barker’s health has improved since then but she will continue to struggle with immunity issues for the rest of her life and could need a new liver in future years.
“She can get really sick really easily. Any germs or infections can really set her off, so she can’t be in large public spaces too much,” Keri said.
For more information on the Children’s Wish Foundation, visit childrenswish.ca