Community mourns loss of 6-year-old with heart condition

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 6, 2013

SALISBURY — A shocked community grieved Saturday night over the loss of 6-year-old Lillie Edwards, the little girl who inspired many with her smile and resilience despite enduring three open-heart surgeries.
Lillie, a kindergartner at Sacred Heart Catholic School, passed away unexpectedly Saturday, principal Frank Cardelle said.
The only daughter of Elizabeth and Tripp Edwards, Lillie was born with congenital heart disease and came through her third surgery on Nov. 14 with flying colors, Cardelle said.
Cleared for activity, Lillie was enjoying the playground Saturday afternoon at Chick-fil-A, one of her favorite restaurants, Cardelle said. She collapsed and could not be revived, he said.
Lillie, who returned to school three weeks after her most recent surgery, loved art and animals. She communicated equally well with adults and children and “never met a stranger,” her mother told the Post in November.
“She was extremely spirited and full of emotion about everything,” Cardelle said Saturday. “Unless you saw her chest, you would never know she had a heart condition.”
The community rallied around the Edwards family before the surgery at Hermann Memorial Children’s Hospital in Houston.
Ilse Cardelle and Lisa Trainor, fellow Sacred Heart parents, helped organize a fundraiser to cover part of the family’s expenses during their time in Houston.
Mr. Gatti’s restaurant hosted the event, “Eat Out for Lillie’s Heart.”
“They are a wonderful family and we just hate they are having to go through this,” Trainor told the Post at the time. “Lillie is just the sweetest and most fun-loving little girl.”
The surgery went better than expected, and Lillie did not require the valve replacement surgeons had planned, Frank Cardelle said.
After she recovered, she enjoyed running, jumping and playing like other kindergartners, he said. The Cardelle family lives near the Edwards family, and the twin Cardelle daughters grew up with Lillie.
The school will have additional counselors on hand Monday who will visit each class to talk about grief, Cardelle said.
Going down the slide at Chick-fil-A was one of Lillie’s favorite activities. Cardelle said according to family members, she showed no signs of distress before her collapse on Saturday.
“She kept saying, ‘Today is the best day of my life,’ “ he said.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.