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Wishes For Lily, A Little Fighter

It's that time again when fantastic things happen for some Early Show viewers during the series "Week of Wishes."

Monday begins with a big surprise for a couple in Austin, Texas, whose lives revolve around a determined little girl named Lily.

Every birthday is a milestone, but Frank and Nora Salinas say their daughter's third birthday is no less than a miracle.

Nora explains, "We thought everything was perfect, and we were going to have a perfectly healthy little baby."

Liliana Salinas arrived prematurely, not long after an ultrasound indicated something was wrong. Along with a four-pound infant, doctors delivered a diagnosis her parents never expected.

Frank remembers, "It was pretty surprising, stomach dropping, heart pounding. You know, we were prepared for dealing with a medical issue, but to hear Down Syndrome is a whole other thing."

Babies with Down syndrome often have medical complications, but Lily's were life threatening. Her esophagus, through which food and liquids normally would pass, did not connect to her stomach. Only two days after she was born, Lily underwent exploratory surgery.

Her mother says, "We brought her home with a suction device. She had to have a heart apnea monitor because there was a fear of choking - that sort of thing. There was a lot of just equipment that we had to learn how to use."

At 11-months old, Lily had already been through four operations, including emergency surgery after the suction device accidentally punctured her esophagus and lung.

"It was just a real battle for about a month," Nora says, "But she's a little fighter and real strong and just really rallied around."

Surgeons were able to connect her esophagus to her stomach, but Lily still hasn't learned to chew and swallow food. Her parents feed her a liquid diet through a tube that leads directly into her stomach.

These days, Lily is catching up from some developmental delays that often accompany Down syndrome.

With family friend Dawn Alexander, Lily's mom produced a video specifically to help DownsSyndrome children "Say It With A Sign" until they learn to speak.

And while Lily never did learn to crawl - that, certainly, didn't stop her.

Nora says, "She just bops along on her little bottom. It's kind of a harder way of getting around, but it works for her." Her husband agrees and laughs.

Then, just before her third birthday, she was up and about. Lily's extended family gathered last weekend to celebrate her life.

And if you're wondering how her parents have managed to cope the past few years, Frank says, "I think it's because of Lily, my daughter. She's been the inspiration for all of this. She's a bundle of joy. She's what keeps me going daily. No matter what she had done to her, she would look at us and smile and she'd know that we were there to take care of her. And we are."

The whole family visits The Early Show on Monday along with Lily's aunt Norris Ferguson, who wrote the following letter to the "Week of Wishes:"

"Lily is a joy! Because of her medical conditions, her parents have incurred enormous medical bills. Frank and Nora must both work almost non-stop in order to make ends meet. They never complain about this, of course. They even see the medical bills as evidence that they truly have a million-dollar baby. My wish for them is for help with those bills, but also for the two of them to have a special weekend alone. It would help both of them so much and, because of that, would be a blessing to Lily, too."

So Cris Daskevich of Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, which is celebrating its 50 anniversary, gave the Salinas family something to celebrate, as well.

She said, "We're going to provide your free oral motor therapy with our feeding disorders clinic. Liliana will be working with our specialists, speech therapists and dieticians hoping we can work through some of her texture aversion and get her eating like a normal 3-year-old."

The Salinas were speachless as they thought they were coming to the show to do a HealthWatch segment.

Then Amy Ziff of offered something special just for the parents, saying, "Travelocity and Fairmont Hotels want to offer you guys five nights at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn And Spas so you can have a romantic weekend for two. You'll get breakfast every day. You'll have lovely California cuisine experience in their hotel restaurant as well as complimentary spa experiences. We just hope we get you away so you can get some romance, relaxation and restoration."

And that was not all, Norris also got a present courtesy of Royal Caribbean, a seven-night western Caribbean cruise leaving Galveston, Texas, visiting several ports of call.

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