North Delta’s Colton Hasebe is set to become BC Children’s Hospital’s champion child for 2018, sharing his story with donors and the public over the next year.
The North Delta Reporter last visited Colton in April 2017, when he was fundraising for BC Children’s Hospital. Back then, the Richardson Elementary student was quiet, except when he started talking about video games and Lego.
Now, more than six months later, 12-year-old Colton is still quiet. But he’s grown — five or six inches in the last year, his dad says — and when he speaks, he sounds mature and self confident.
That’s a good thing, since as the next BC Children’s Hospital champion child, Colton will be the face of the hospital until the hospital’s Miracle Weekend in June.
The family found out in September, when hospital foundation representative Joanna Newman called them up.
“Usually she emails so it was unusual to get a phone call,” Rachel Hasebe, Colton’s mom, said. “She called and she’s asking me ‘Do you know what the champion children are?’ I was like, ‘Well, I think so.’
“And she was like, ‘Well, we wanted to ask you if Colton would want to be this year’s … champion child. And I was confused at first, because I was like ‘Colton? What are you talking about?’ And then all of a sudden I realized. ‘Oh, wow. Yeah. This is pretty awesome.’
“It was when he was at school so when he came home from school, I told him about it.”
“That was the most excited I had been in a while,” Colton added.
As a champion child, Colton and his family will be present at many major fundraising events for the hospital, speaking about his story and how the hospital has impacted him. He’ll also get to spend two weeks in March in Ottawa and Orlando, meeting other children representing hospitals around North America.
“They really liked his story because it was a success story,” Rachel said about why Colton was chosen.
“I’m surprised people haven’t gotten sick of it by now,” Colton said, smiling a little.
On Dec. 19, 2015, Colton suffered an asthma attack. His dad, Kevin Hasebe, drove him to BC Children’s Hospital at 3 a.m. When they got there, Colton collapsed and went into cardiac arrest.
For 10 days, Colton was in the intensive care unit, where his family and caregivers waited until he could breath on his own. But when Colton came off the sedation, he couldn’t see. His voice was slurred and his body was weak. His brain, which had been deprived of oxygen for 15 minutes while he was in cardiac arrest, was swelling.
“You still get kind of emotional about it, because it was a tough time,” Rachel said.
The family didn’t know what would happen: if he would be able to see, able to walk, able to live a normal life again.
After his 10 days in the ICU, Colton was transferred to Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children. There, he made a nearly full recovery in only one month. Although Colton does have some permanent brain damage — he has a tremor in his hands when he uses fine motor skills and he slurs slightly when he talks — he has been able to return to a normal preteen life.
“I guess they like his story because it has a fairly good outcome, you know, from what happened to him,” Kevin said, “and the fact that if it happened anywhere else he wouldn’t have made it.”
Watch the video below to see the Hasebe family share their story live at BC Children’s Hospital’s 30th annual Miracle Weekend, which took place June 3-4, 2017. (BC Children’ Hospital Foundation video)
According to BC Children’s Hospital Foundation communications specialist Pamela Smith, that’s pretty accurate.
“The Hasebe family have been working with the our team since May 2016, when Colton was referred to us as an ‘absolute miracle’ by Dr. Garth Meckler, head of emergency medicine,” Smith wrote in an email.
“Colton and his family have participated in many communications and fundraising activities on behalf of the hospital,” including a interviews, fundraising activities and last year’s Miracle Weekend. “Their story of perseverance, strength and courage inspires all who meet this remarkable family.”
At a ceremony on Jan. 16, Colton will officially become the 2018 champion child, taking over from Tsawwassen teen Taylin McGill.
“We’re really excited about it, really looking forward to it,” Kevin said. “It’s a great opportunity, especially for us because we’re not public speakers, we’re not necessarily comfortable in the limelight, so it’s good for all of us to get out there.”
Colton has done one or two minor speaking events in the past for the hospital, but nothing on the scale of what he’ll be doing as champion child.
“At first I was nervous,” he said about the public speaking, “but I figured I can get my act together.”
His dad laughed.
As for what the family expects from the year ahead, it’s still a little murky.
“It’s still new to us too, so we don’t know —” Rachel said.
“We don’t know much of the ins and outs of it yet,” Kevin said, finishing her sentence.
“We just know that it’s going to be a positive experience,” she said.