Doctors said Emma Detwiler would not survive. Now, five years later, she’s headed back to school.
AVON, Ohio — Spend a few minutes with 5-year-old Emma Detwiler and try not to smile.
She’s fun and fierce, smart and funky. And, she is not afraid to take on challenges, despite her own.
When asked how brave she was, Emma replied:
“Bolder than I ever thought.”
Emma’s journey began when she was only three days old. She was diagnosed with heart failure and there were far too many times when doctors thought she wouldn’t survive.
“Days of intense fragility and days when we didn’t know if the next promised minute of her life was coming,” said Cara, Emma’s mother.
In February 2017, Emma received a heart transplant. It saved his life. The road was not easy, as the first year of her life was spent in the hospital. And, she still faces a number of health and learning issues.
“She is still actively living with chronic kidney disease,” Cara said.
Looking at her, you would never know. It’s Emma, though.
Last week, something extraordinary happened: Emma started kindergarten!
“Kindergarten was one of those milestones that felt like a huge success if we could get to kindergarten…what an incredible achievement that would be,” Cara said. “It’s been incredibly exciting and she seems to be really enjoying this chapter for her, you know, being able to socialize and be with other kids is a huge joy for her.”
It’s also notable because Emma didn’t speak for the first three years of her life.
“So she didn’t say a completely non-verbal word until she was three years old, when she had her trachea removed and her airway reconstructed,” Cara said.
These days, talking is one of his favorite activities.
“Hi guys!” Emma told us.
Her mother and father fought for her to go to school. They want Emma to learn to appreciate her differences and for the other children to embrace them.
“Without a doubt, feeling included, not feeling different, not feeling pressured into what she can do. We always want to let her know that her scar is beautiful,” Cara said. “She is beyond strong and will do great things in life. She is going to be an inspiration. She has already been an inspiration to us and many around her.”
If there’s a lesson here, it’s that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Emma’s family is eternally grateful to her donor heart, which allows her to live today.
“You never know what you’re going to get in life,” Cara said. “Find the joys in life. Find the things that can truly make the world a better place.”
Editor’s Note: The following video is from an independent report.