Soldier dad home for daughter-Philadelphia News

July 24, 2008 3:30:33 PM PDT
A soldier on leave from his third tour in Afghanistan is back in the U-S for a special family visit. His daughter received a treatment in Philadelphia that could improve her quality of life. Like many 4-year-old girls, Kennedy Garcia loves princess dresses and thinks this ball pit is lots of fun.

But Kennedy and her family are facing challenges most of us can't imagine.

She was born with Down Syndrome, has battled leukemia, and just had spinal surgery at Shriner's Hospital.

The surgery will stop her head from moving improperly and damaging her spine.

"That halo essentially immobilizes her so her bones can heal properly," said Dr. Amer Samdani, Kennedy's neurosurgeon.

"This was her 18th surgery but it has been by far her longest surgery and most complicated, so we were happy to know she was in good hands here. They've taken wonderful care of us," said Kennedy's mom Renee Garcia.

The Garcia family -- including Kennedy's three siblings and her grandmother -- have been in Philadelphia for four weeks.

Despite the stress of Kennedy's this has been a good time for the family, since the Army allowed Kennedy's dad, Frank, to return to the States on leave from his third deployment to Afghanistan.

"It was very important for me to be here with Kennedy and the family, and be a support, even if I don't do much, sometimes, but just being there," said Frank Garcia.

"It's been so important to have him here, not only for her and for me but for the other children as well," said Renee.

Kennedy had her final post-op check-up with Dr. Samdani at Shriner's this week, and she and her family will head back home to Tennessee.

Her dad will go back to Afghanistan.

"It's part of my job and it's just something that I've come to accept and we both as a couple realize that it's where I need to be, what I need to be doing," he said.

Kennedy will be coming back to Philadelphia for follow-up visits over the next few months but the date the family is really looking forward to: next March when Dad comes back from Afghanistan, hopefully for good.

Click here to get the latest Philadelphia news and headlines from across the Delaware and Lehigh valleys.