She is the sweetest little girl. She's smart and she's funny and she's so resilient. She’s an all-around superhero.

Thanks to life-saving care at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, Eily Dayton celebrated her golden birthday—turning 9 on September 9.

Eily’s first days in this world were frightening for her parents, Matt and Shannon Dayton.

“We had a few scares during her pregnancy but thought she was going to be healthy when she was born,” Shannon said.

When Eily was born, she went straight to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) struggling to breathe, suck and swallow. At 4 weeks old, she had her first surgery to place a gastrostomy tube (g-tube) so she could safely eat. After 42 days in the NICU, Shannon took her baby home, but there was a long road ahead. Eily was very weak, had difficulty feeding and her cry did not sound like Shannon’s first two children.

“We were in and out of the hospital all the time,” Shannon said. “We needed a punch card.” She remembers telling one of Eily’s doctors that she felt she was bringing Eily in too often, but she didn’t know what else to do. Shannon remembers that same doctor putting her at ease. “You know your daughter best. If you are worried, the best place for you and Eily to be is at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital,” she said.

Genetic testing revealed a rare genetic deletion—so rare there was no name for it. Shannon did not know if Eily would ever walk, talk or eat normally.

Cardiologists provided some answers when Eily was 8 months old: she needed heart surgery immediately.

“We found out all of these things that were wrong,” Shannon said. “Holes in her heart and things that didn't do what they should after birth.”

After recovering from the surgery, Eily had life-changing results.

“She got stronger and started thriving,” Shannon said. “Heart surgery catapulted her health. She started eating by mouth, sitting up, really hitting the milestones that we were missing along the way. It was a big deal for our family. It really changed our lives, and we love to celebrate.”

Eily likes her heart anniversary because she gets presents. She said her superpower is being strong.

“I would tell other kids to be brave,” Eily said.

Eily still sees cardiologists for left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy (LVNC) and some electrical issues with her heart.

“I think that what makes Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital special is the people. The amazing doctors and nurses that really care. That was really important to us,” Shannon said.

Eily is now in third grade and participates in soccer, dance and horse riding. She loves to read, swim and garden with her Nana.

“If someone would have told me when she was a baby that her future would look like this, I wouldn’t have believed them,” Shannon said. “We are so grateful and aware of how lucky we are to have the best doctors in Spokane.”

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