Posted: Friday, October 11, 2013 1:17 am | Updated: 8:35 am, Fri Oct 11, 2013.
By John Hamlin
When doctors diagnosed Dalton Edwards as having liver cancer on Friday, Sept. 27, the community quickly rallied around the West Iredell High School junior.
Friends and family, coaches and classmates, teachers and teammates – along with countless others who simply heard his story in passing or on social media – wore his favorite color, light blue, in his honor, sold T-shirts and bows to raise money for his family and prayed constantly for his swift and complete recovery.
Just two weeks since the diagnosis, Edwards has undergone a successful liver transplant at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. At 12:20 p.m. on Thursday, Edwards’ mother posted on Facebook that his breathing tube had been removed and he was sitting up and talking in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit.
“From the initial symptoms he was having, to the diagnosis of having liver cancer, then through the surgery and now the recovery process has all been very quick, and at times almost overwhelming for a team of teenagers and their family to have to deal with it in such a quick span,” said David Heintz, Edwards’ soccer coach at WIHS.
“We’ve really rallied around Dalton, as he is a member of our team, but I believe it has also brought our team closer together because they realize that tomorrow is never promised to us, so we have to make the most out of every day.”
Doctors first noticed irregularities with Edwards at an appointment common among teenagers, said Cindy Webb, a family friend and administrator of a Facebook page that 8,720 people have followed for updates on Edwards’ battle.
“He was referred to an oral surgeon for wisdom teeth removal, and his blood pressure was 180/120, which is very high, especially for a 16-year-old athlete, and they referred him to his pediatrician, who started doing blood work and tests,” Webb said.
The doctors found a basketball-sized tumor on Edwards’ liver, and determined it to be cancerous on Friday, Sept. 27. That evening, Edwards went to his school’s football game and, instead of kicking field goals and extra points for the Warriors as usual, broke the news to his teammates.
The original plan was to remove the tumor on Wednesday, Oct. 2, and let his liver regenerate or possibly perform a partial transplant, Webb said. To show solidarity with Edwards on his planned surgery date, community members and students at West Iredell and schools around the county wore light blue.
Rather than undergoing surgery that Wednesday, Edwards got biopsy results indicating he would need a complete liver transplant, and Webb said the doctors told the family it would take up to a month to find him a liver.
On Monday, Webb said Edwards met with the transplant team to discuss what he should expect from surgery and they moved him up on the transplant list. Webb said she spoke with Edwards’ mother on Tuesday, just before things got hectic.
“I actually met with Geri Tuesday evening, and they were joking about packing bags in case they needed to go to the hospital, and then they got a call that night at 9:30 telling them to be on standby for the next 24 hours,” she said.
“At 11:30 p.m., they got the call that he would be able to have the transplant the next day at Levine Children’s Hospital.”
Edwards went to the hospital early Wednesday morning, and West Iredell held a moment of silence when he entered surgery at 2 p.m. The surgery lasted eight hours, with the family posting Facebook updates from the waiting room that garnered hundreds of likes and dozens of encouraging comments.
The Edwards family was still feeling overwhelmed and focusing on Dalton’s recovery Thursday evening, but Webb said they had expressed their deepest gratitude to the community.
“The whole family wants to thank everyone who’s reached out and prayed for Dalton,” she said. “They’re very appreciative of the community’s outpouring of love, concern and support.”
To get real-time updates on Dalton and upcoming events to raise money for his family, search for “Pray for Dalton 33 / 25 / 20” on Facebook and like the page. To send a card or letter to Edwards, address the envelope to Prayers for Dalton, P.O. Box 6256, Statesville, N.C. 28687.