Posted: Dec 26, 2012 12:56 PM by Katie Stukey - MTN News
GREAT FALLS - Two-year-old Parker Smith is settled into his grandparents house in Great Falls as the holidays draw near.
While his parents may have grown up here, for Parker, this is far from home and he's more than 2,000 miles from his parents, Kelly and Tyler Smith.
It's the last possible scenario the Smiths could have imagined this Christmas.
After earning his PhD from Montana State University earlier this year, Tyler landed a job as a professor in upstate New York.
With Parker in tow, Kelly and Tyler settled into their quiet new town over the summer, anxiously awaiting the arrival of their little girl, Matilda.
Matilda Mary arrived September 21st; Kelly recalled, "She came and was healthy and was sweet and perfect."
But Matilda struggled to eat, and slept even more than most newborns.
Kelly said, "We took her to the hospital thinking she was dehydrated. We didn't know. We had no idea."
They quickly learned Matilda had a liver that wasn't fully functioning.
She was taken by ambulance to Syracuse, then immediately on to New York City, where the Smiths started to get a glimpse of the journey before them.
Kelly explained, "They said she had swelling in her brain and the doctor sat me down, brought me into another room and sat me down, and I thought, 'This isn't going to end well.'"
With just their clothes on their back, the Smiths tried to settle into their hospital room at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Thinking it would be a couple weeks' stay, they decided to send Parker back to Montana to stay his grandparents, Kathy and Ben.
Back in New York, Matilda's health deteriorated rapidly; she needed a new liver.
And last month, at just 6 weeks old, her match was found.
When surgeons removed Matilda's liver, it was in worse shape then they imagined, functioning at just 1%.
Kelly said, "She was that close to not making it. She's a miracle."
Despite her newfound health, recovery kept Matilda in the hospital almost six more weeks, which meant Parker stayed settled in Montana.
But just before Christmas, Matilda got the OK to leave the hospital, which opened the door to the simple presence the Smiths imagined all along: time together Christmas day as a healthy, happy family.
Kelly said, "We have a beautiful baby girl. I'll have my son in my arms. You can't ask for more than that, really and truly."
All four of the Smiths are now staying in the Ronald McDonald house in New York City while Matilda still has frequent check-ups.
They plan to return to their home in upstate New York as soon as the transplant team gives them the okay.