Little Emma needs only a toy tambourine to steal the show from Bailey Alka, a music therapy intern who applauds her breakout performance. The tiny warrior is ready for 2020 and is honing her bell ringing prowess. Hepatoblastoma — a rare liver cancer, chemotherapy and a liver transplant in Miami consumed last year for the tiny warrior who’s not much older than her cancer. Her parents have big plans for the new year thanks to the ultimate gift of compassion from a family they’ve never met.
“No words can describe how thankful we are and how sorry we feel for the donor parents’ loss,” says Jamie, Emma’s mom. “Their child will live on through all the lives they have saved. We’re going to take her donor’s liver to experience all the things their child wasn’t able to do,” she says choking back emotion like only mothers will understand.
Jamie and Matthew, Emma’s dad, celebrate the New Year — their anniversary — in Emma’s room inside Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. They watch TV, play with Emma and wait desperately to put 2019 behind them.
For this feisty cancer fighter, her two older sisters and her parents, 2020 is full of possibilities. Her next performance will soar from simple jingling to a thunderous tintinnabulation in the hospital’s Outpatient Care location in Tampa and draw a much larger crowd. That’s when she officially rings the bell signifying the end of active chemotherapy treatments and the beginning of a new chapter in her life. Happy New Year, Emma.
Dating to writings from c.1200, the tradition of tand-fé or tooth fee, paid when a child loses a baby tooth continues for a surgical team centuries later.
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