(Southaven, MS) The joy a child can bring into a parent's heart...
"When I look at her I can't imagine life without her," Shannon Kirk said.
You can clearly see it in the eyes and in the smile of Shannon Kirk every time she looks at and every time she holds and plays with her 7-month-old daughter, Reese.
"It's just a great feeling to know that I can play with Reese and she can be treated as a normal baby," Kirk said.
Reese is a happy and healthy normal baby now.
It's quite a contrast to how her life began.
"The night that she was born she turned a blue color and we knew oxygen was low and took her to NICI," Kirk said.
Doctors delivered the news no parent wants to hear: Shannon and Alan Kirk's newborn had a heart defect.
"It just terrified me and my husband because you just expect to have a healthy baby and spend a couple of days in the hospital and just go home," Kirk said.
Reese wouldn't be going home.
Doctors said she needed to be cared for at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, right away.
"I was scared to death and had barely spent time with her while we were at the hospital," Kirk said.
So imagine how difficult it was for the Kirks to see their little girl not in a nursery, but in ICU.
"There were tubes everywhere. She had oxygen in her nose and it was the most terrifying experience and I thought how in the world am I going to make it through this," Kirk said.
Reese needed major surgery to save her life.
Dr. Christopher Knott-Craig is a pediatric heart surgeon at Le Bonheur.
"Reese would have died within the first two weeks of life. As soon as the little blood vessel that was keeping her alive closed. She would have died and that usually closing in the first week or two of life," Knott-Craig said.
Reese was in surgery for hours, but the Kirks finally they got the news they'd been praying to hear.
"They told us she did a great job that she should recovery beautifully and that was the greatest thing I could have heard," Kirk said.
But months later, Reese wasn't in the clear just yet.
In May, she would have to have open heart surgery, but her mom said she knew Reese would be in good hands at Le Bonheur.
"I think it's because I had the love and support of the nurses and doctors and I know so many by name, just friendly and heartwarming," Kirk said.
The surgery was a success.
"It had a significant obstruction, take it to the operating room, close the hole inside the heart and rebuild the artery to the lungs and now she has a heart as strong or stronger than yours or mine," Knott-Craig said.
Reese's heartbeat is now strong. Her mom calls her a fighter and her little
"She's everything to me. I can't believe she fought through like she did to come through it. She still smiles and still plays and she's my hero for sure," Shannon Kirk said.
A small hero who isn't talking just yet, but if she could she'd probably say thank you to Le Bonheur.
"It seems like thank you isn't enough to Le Bonheur because they gave us the ultimate gift, which is our baby," Kirk said.