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Avon girl who had heart transplant goes to kindergarten

Doctors said Emma Detwiler wouldn't survive. Now, five years later, she's heading to school.

AVON, Ohio — Spend just a few minutes with 5-year-old Emma Detwiler, and try not to smile.

She's fun and fierce, smart and funky. And, she's not afraid to take on challenges, despite dealing with her own.

When asked how brave she was, Emma said:

"More braver than I ever thought."

Emma's journey began when she was just three days old. She was diagnosed with heart failure and there were far too many times when doctors didn't think she'd survive.

"Days of intense fragility and days where we didn't know if the next minute was promised of her life," Emma's mom, Cara said.

In February of 2017, Emma received a heart transplant. It saved her life. It hasn't been an easy road, as the first year of her life was spent in the hospital. And, she still copes with a number of health and learning challenges.

"She's still actively in chronic kidney disease," Cara said.

Looking at her, you'd never know it. That's Emma, though.

Last week, something extraordinary happened: Emma started kindergarten! 

"Kindergarten was one of those milestones that felt like that would be a huge success if we could make it to kindergarten ... what an incredible feat that would be," Cara said. "It's amazingly exciting and she really does seem to be enjoying this chapter for her, you know, being able to socialize and be with other kids is a huge joy for her."

It's also remarkable because Emma didn't speak for the first three years of her life.

"So she didn't say a word was completely nonverbal until after three years old, when she had her trach removed and her airway was reconstructed," Cara said.

These days, talking is one of her favorite things to do.

"Hi guys!" Emma said to us.

Her mom and dad fought hard for her to be at school. They want Emma to learn to love her differences, and for other kids to embrace them.

"Without a doubt, feeling included, not feeling like she is different, not feeling like she has any restraints to what she can do. We always want to empower her that her scar is beautiful," Cara said. "She is beyond strong and will do big things in life. She's gonna be an inspiration. She already has been an inspiration to us and many around her."

If there's any lesson here, it's that tomorrow isn't guaranteed. Emma's family is forever grateful to her donor's heart, which allows her to live today.

"You never know what you're going to be handed in life," Cara said. "Find the joys in life. Find the things that can truly make the world a better place." 

Editor's Note: The following video is from an unrelated report.

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