Fundraiser Saturday for kindergartner who is undergoing third heart surgery
By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY - Just seven days after she was born, Lillie Edwards had her first heart surgery.
Her second one came 10 short months later.
Now, the 6-year-old kindergartner at Sacred Heart Catholic School, is preparing for her third surgery.
"It's a big one because they are taking the aortic valve out and replacing it," her mother, Elizabeth Edwards, said.
Although Lillie was born with congenital heart disease, Edwards said the family hopes this will be her last surgery for a while.
"If she comes out of this really well and things are a good fit, she could possibly be good to go until about high school," she said.
The family, including Lillie's father Tripp, will travel to Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, for the surgery on Nov. 14.
Lillie's previous surgeries were at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Brenner Children's Hospital, but her doctor has relocated to Houston.
Edwards said they decided to stick with him because he already knows Lillie and her unique heart defects.
"It was kind of a no-brainer after talking to other surgeons," she said. "His value was her life.
"He's a surgeon who kind of works outside of the box and uses new materials."
If there are no complications, Lillie will stay in the hospital for about a week following the surgery. But the family will have to stay there until at least the end of the month for a post-operation check-up.
Illse Cardelle and Lisa Trainor, fellow Sacred Heart parents, have helped organized a fundraiser to cover part of the family's expenses during their time in Houston.
"They are a wonderful family and we just hate they are having to go through this," Trainor said. "Lillie is just the sweetest and most fun-loving little girl."
Mr. Gatti's, at 122 S. Avalon Drive, will host "Eat Out for Lillie's Heart" from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday. The cost is $10 per person and $5 will go directly to the family.
There will be face painting and crafts for children during the event.
Trainor said Mark and Valerie Habeeb, owners of Mr. Gatti's, offered to have the fundraiser after hearing about the upcoming surgery.
"Their children go to Sacred Heart and they are always willing to help out," she said.
Edwards said it's humbling to have such a great community of friends rally around Lillie and the family.
"It's amazing," she said. "They are just incredible people who just want to make it as smooth as they can for us."
Edwards said the fundraiser will help take some of the burden of expenses off the family's shoulders.
"We just sacrifice and put things on the back burner and carry on," she said. "I've never even thought about a fundraiser or anything like that."
Lillie will have to spend between six and eight weeks at home recovering after her surgery.
After that, Edwards expects things to return to normal.
Although the family keeps a watchful eye on Lillie, they don't keep her from doing the things she loves, like running around with her friends.
"No. 1 she's got to be a kid," she said. "We just move on and try not to make it a big deal."
Edwards said Lillie is a bit of an old soul who can communicate well with both children and adults.
"She's never met a stranger," she said.
Lillie is also artistic and an animal lover.
"She's warm and loving," Trainor said. "She's just always smiling."
Trainor said those who can't make it to Mr. Gatti's Saturday can donate to the family through the school by calling Gail Mintz at 704-633-2841.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.