Cobble Hill’s Wikkerink family owes a lot to the province’s medical system, and the BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver in particular.
An ultrasound taken at the Cowichan District Hospital in 2015 discovered that eight-month old Jeremy, who is now five and the oldest of Michelle and Jason Wikkerink’s three children, had a tumour on his side.
He was immediately transferred to BC Children’s Hospital for treatment.
“No parent wants to hear their child has a tumour,” said Michelle.
“We didn’t know what to think. We just had to take it day by day.”
At BC Children’s Hospital, Jeremy had surgery to remove his right kidney along with the tumour, which was a Wilms tumour—– a type of childhood kidney cancer.
Doctors suspected Denys-Drash syndrome, a rare kidney disorder that can lead to kidney failure in young children.
Ninety per cent of children with Denys-Drash syndrome develop a Wilms tumour and after five months of chemotherapy, Jeremy’s diagnosis was confirmed.
A year after his first surgery, Jeremy began receiving dialysis at home at the family’s dairy farm in Cobble Hill to remove waste and extra chemicals from his blood, and he would spend 12 hours each day hooked up to the dialysis machine.
Unfortunately, the Denys-Drash diagnosis meant that his other kidney was at risk of developing a Wilms tumour, and Jeremy needed to be cancer-free in order to have a transplant.
His left kidney was removed in 2017.
Two days after his third birthday in September, 2017, Jeremy received the best present anyone could hope for; a kidney donated by his father, Jason, who was a perfect match for the transplant.
But the surgery was not without complications, and Jeremy developed a clot in the transplanted kidney, requiring an additional surgery immediately after the transplant.
Jeremy spent a full week in intensive care and received dialysis for two weeks until the new kidney began working on its own.
Today, Jeremy is a happy young and active boy.
He is still part of a two research studies, including one that is looking at biomarkers in urine to test for the possible rejection of his father’s kidney.
But being off dialysis has given him a lot of freedom, and he says he loves being outside with animals on the family farm farm, especially the baby cows.
Sitting in a Cobble Hill park while Jeremy played on the swings, Jason and Michelle said they have every expectation that Jeremy can now live a full and normal life, but it’s likely he will need another kidney transplant at some point in the future.
In the meantime, Jeremy needs to continue to monitor his transplanted kidney and take anti-rejection medications.
He experienced a mild rejection last year that required steroids, and Michelle said Dr. Tom Blydt-Hansen, a member of the pediatric multi-organ transplant program at BC Children’s Hospital, helped to put it into perspective.
“He described it as being like a campfire,” she said.
“If you leave it unattended, it can become a large wild fire but if you extinguish it right away, rejection is easier to control.”
Michelle and Jason said they are grateful to all of the staff at BC Children’s, and especially Dr. Blydt-Hansen, who continues to follow Jeremy’s treatment, and Dr. Kowrosh Afsher who was also instrumental in the case.
“As a parent going through this, you don’t hear everything being said to you,” Michelle said.
“It goes in one ear and out the other. Everyone did such a good job explaining things over and over again until we understood it, and answering our endless questions.”
The family encourages people to participate in the 2019 Dream Lottery that directly supports the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation.
The money raised from the Dream Lottery goes to funding research that leads to innovative discoveries and treatments to help sick children.
Ticket sales for the 2019 Dream Lottery run until Oct. 11 and there are more than 3,100 prizes this year worth approximately $3.7 million, including luxury homes, vacations, and cars.
People can purchase their tickets online at https://bcchildren.com, by phone at 604-692-2333, or 1-888-887-8771, or in person at London Drugs, Save-On Foods, PriceSmart Food, Urban Fare, and BC Children’s Hospital.
“It’s a great cause and we encourage everyone to take part in the 2019 Dream Lottery to help BC Children’s Hospital,” Jason said.