Parents of a 3-year-old girl simply celebrate a new heart

Delilah Edwards’ parents didn’t plan to celebrate Thanksgiving

Just spending the day together counts when your 3-year-old daughter has a new heart.

“Before her color was really off. She was very pale,” Samantha Davidson, Delilah’s mother, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Since March, Davidson and her husband, Ryan Edwards, have been traveling every weekend from Moline, Illinois, to see their daughter at Ann and Robert H. Laurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.

Last month, Delilah, who was born with a retarded left side of her heart, underwent a 12-hour transplant.

Now Delilah’s parents were staying at Ronald MacDonald’s downtown home while accompanying their daughter for multiple checkups each week.

On Thursday they celebrated the holiday with 70 other families at the Ronald McDonald House, which provides free accommodations for families of children undergoing medical treatment.

After nine heart surgeries, some of which were unsuccessful, doctors told Delilah’s father that a new heart was her best hope.

Davidson said the weekly stay — especially the return flights to Moline, which is about 166 miles (267 km) west of Chicago — has been challenging, more for the parent than the child.

“She really doesn’t know anything but this,” Davidson said, so that’s normal. I think it affects us a lot more than it actually does.

She said Laurie’s nurses were skilled at calming and distracting Delilah at the time of departure.

With an average of 25 to 30 heart transplants annually, Lurie is one of the busiest facilities in the country, according to Dr. Phil Thrush, medical director of the Lurie Pediatric Heart Failure and Transplant Program.

Thrush said that the first six months after transplantation are the most important. If Delilah’s transplant has been successful for more than a year, he said, “I would expect that she will probably have this heart for more than 20 years.”

“I’m glad I can spend time with her,” Davidson said.

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