America was introduced to Kennedy Cunningham when her father first fought on NBC back in December of 2012 when he faced Tomasz Adamek in that epic battle, we learned that she suffered from a severed heart condition called HLHS.
In April when Steve fought Amir Mansour on NBC Sports, the family had just received heart breaking news when they we told that Kennedy was not a candidate for heart transplant as they had hoped.
She had her first open heart surgery at 2 days old and the second six months later. She was hospitalized for the first year of her life and suffered many set backs along the way, including a stroke, many blood infections and also required a trach and vent for several years when she was younger. The doctors that cared for her back then all say that she is a miracle, they saw everything she went through and never thought she would live to be 8 years old! Now, almost 9 years later she continues to show us how tough she is!
Most children with HLHS undergo a third repair which can allow them to live into adulthood, however it was determined that Kennedy was not a candidate due to the anatomy of her heart and the extent of its defects (small pulmonary arteries and tricuspid valve regurgitation). It was then that we were advised that she would have to have a heart transplant. She went through the entire transplant evaluation in our hometown of Philadelphia at the Children's Hospital there and in March our world was shattered when we were told by the Heart Failure team at CHOP that Kennedy was not a candidate for transplant or any other surgery. We were told, "no matter what, Kennedy is going to die far to soon". They told Steve and his wife Livvy that the best they could do was give her medicine to help her heart function but that there would come a time when her heart would give out and there would be nothing they could do.
"I was so completely heart broken the day her doctor sat me down and gave me the news," said Livvy. "My world collapsed. I cried for 3 days straight while I tried to wrap my head around the news and tried to figure out how to live without the hope of a beautiful future for our beautiful daughter, tried to picture our lives without her. I just couldn't, it was impossible"
The Cunninghams are a faithful, fighting family and decided 'they were not going to give up on their daughter and just watch her fade away. They chose to seek a second opinion. The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh agreed to evaluate her and on June 25th, 2014, Kennedy was accepted into their program and listed for a heart transplant! Receiving a heart transplant is giving her a fighting chance to live the full, energy filled life that every child deserves.
"I'll never forget the day I got the call from my wife with the news, I broke down like never before, I lost it. I was in the middle of my training camp for a must win fight. People close to me told me I should pull out of the fight, that it was too much for me. But I knew that I had to fight for Kennedy, she has been through so many battles in her life and has never once given up and I was not going to let her see her father quit. I turned my sadness and fear into determination and on fight night, I had to dig deep but it was that determination that got me up off the canvas twice to win. We will never give up on Kennedy and are so blessed and excited that The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh has agreed to take her on and list her", said Steve Cunningham
Now that Kennedy is listed in Pittsburgh, The Cunninghams' have to travel there 1-2 times per month for appointments and have to be ready at any time to jump on the road when they get "the call" that she has her new heart waiting for her. Once that call comes in, they will have 4 hours to get her to Pittsburgh and right now, they live 4.5 hours away. Additionally, They will have to remain in the Pittsburgh area for at least 6 months post-op so housing must also be arranged.
The Cunningham's have set up a fund where donations will help this family cover the out of pocket expenses that come along with this amazing opportunity. Traveling to and from Pittsburgh as well as securing and maintaining a "home away from home" while Kennedy awaits her new heart and recovers from surgery.
TO DONATE TO THE KENNEDY CUNNINGHAM TRANSPLANT FUNDRAISER, PLEASE CLICK ON heartbyfaith.com