CHICAGO (AP) — Delilah Edwards' parents didn't plan an elaborate Thanksgiving celebration.
Just spending the day together is a big deal when your 3-year-old daughter has a new heart.
“Before her color was really off. She was very pale...," Delilah's mother, Samantha Davidson, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Now she is very pink. I’ve never seen her cheeks have this much color to them.”
Since March, Davidson and her husband Ryan Edwards have traveled every weekend from Moline, Illinois, to see their daughter at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago.
Last month, Delilah, who was born with an underdeveloped left side of her heart, underwent 12 hours of transplant surgery.
Now Delilah's parents have been staying at the Ronald McDonald House downtown while they accompany their daughter for multiple checkups each week.
On Thursday they celebrated the holiday with 70 other families at Ronald McDonald House, which provides free accommodations for families of children undergoing medical treatment.
After nine heart surgeries, some of which didn't work, doctors told Delilah's parents a new heart was her best hope.
Davidson said the weekly sojourns — especially the return trips to Moline, which is about 166 miles (267 km) west of Chicago — were difficult, more so for the parents than the child.
“She really doesn’t know anything but this. So this is her normal," Davidson said. “I think it affects us a lot more than it actually affects her.”
She said Lurie's nurses were adept at soothing and distracting Delilah at departure time.
With an average of 25 to 30 heart transplants a year, Lurie is one of the nation’s busier facilities, according to Dr. Phil Thrush, medical director for Lurie’s pediatric heart failure and transplantation program.
The first six months following a transplant are the most crucial, Thrush said. If Delilah's transplant works for more than a year, he said, “I would expect her to have this heart likely for more than 20 years."
Said Davidson: “I’m just happy to be able to spend time with her."