"It's pretty much a miracle he's still with us today."
And another miracle has happened for Derek. This week, three of his
wishes will be granted.
Make-A-Wish Foundation of Orange County has arranged a trip to Disney
World, in Orlando, Fla., for Derek and his family.
The trip will start Friday, just in time for Derek's birthday on Sunday.
This will be Derek's first birthday with no medical appointments in
sight, Candice Tao said, and he's excited.
"You can tell by the way he talks about it," she said. "Every day he asks
if we're going tomorrow. His face lights up whenever we talk about it,
and he just gets this big smile."
To celebrate the trip, the boy took a train ride -- his first -- to San
Juan Capistrano on Saturday, compliments of the foundation.
Linda Wylie, a Make-A-Wish volunteer who coordinated Derek's wish and
celebration, said the boy's love for trains became obvious to her when
she first spoke with him in December.
She chose San Juan Capistrano because the city is pedestrian-friendly,
has many attractions for children and is just the right length away, she
"It's such a charming city with lots to see, and it has a real sense of
community you get when you step out of the train," Wylie said.
California Highway Patrol officers chauffeured him around town in a
patrol car, granting another of his wishes.
Bruce Lian, CHP public affairs officer, said his organization
participated in the celebration because "it's one of his greatest wishes,
and it's the least we can do for him."Derek also received a free lunch at
Sarducci's Capistrano Depot Restaurant, where a special table was set up
for him near the train tracks; a free ice cream at Dairy Queen; souvenirs
donated by Ortega's Trading Post; and a free Beanie Baby from Botanica.
Candice Tao said the trip and celebration are special to the family
because they rarely get to do normal family things.
The family doesn't often plan things in advance because they never know
what to expect the next day, she said.
"This is an opportunity to celebrate something good after all the things
we have gone through," she said. "There are so many things we don't get
to do that normal families take for granted."
Derek has three siblings -- ages 9 months, 4 years and 7 years old."The
kids are looking forward to the chance to go to Disney World and be kids,
because all the kids had to grow up a lot faster than other children,"
Tao said. "I think they have missed out on a big part of their
Tao said the help the family has received from the Make-A-Wish
organization has helped her stay positive.
"This just shows that sometimes life sucks, but there are still good
people and things to look forward to," she said.