When Adonis Watts blew out the candle on his Nemo-themed birthday cake at Chuck E. Cheese's on Saturday, he was celebrating a birthday his mom once doubted he'd reach.
"I didn't think I'd be throwing a second birthday party," Malachi Richardson said.
Adonis underwent a heart transplant at Children's Hospital Los Angeles Heart Institute on Sept. 10 after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a potentially deadly heart muscle disease that can result in heart failure.
Last December, Richardson said, Adonis started getting sick, as if he had the flu. He breathed heavily when he played. She brought him to Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and given medication. But after a month, Adonis hadn't improved. Eventually the correct diagnosis emerged and Adonis went to the Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Richardson soon had to leave her assistant manager job at a sport clothing store to spend most of her time at the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House, which gives lodging to families at low cost while their children are treated at the hospital.
The wait for a heart for Adonis began. Doctors told Richardson the longest wait had been nine months, and as that date neared for Adonis, Richardson said, she began to worry if a donor would be found.
But in the meantime, Adonis began befriending other patients and charming nurses and doctors, Richardson said.
"This little boy is running around and doesn't even look sick," Richardson said. He cheered up people.
On Aug. 29, Richardson blew out her own birthday candle at a dinner with friends.
"I made a wish that my son got a heart by his birthday," she said. "They called on Sept. 9 ... and they said we had a possible donor."
"I cried. I couldn't say anything," Richardson said. She called her mom, Thea Parrish, and said, "'Pack your bags! He got a heart!'"
"Here we are today," Parrish said, beaming at her grandson across the table at Chuck E. Cheese's. "God is good. ... Now he can jump and jump and jump, jump on the bed, jump (everywhere). He acts like a little boy should be acting."
Waiting for a heart for Adonis was stressful, said his dad, Dijon Watts, and hearing that a donor had been found was indescribable.
Adonis' name came from Watts, who predicted his son would be handsome, like Adonis in Greek mythology. "Look at him! He's a little Adonis!" Watts said as he watched his son scamper off to play.
"He is adorable," said Dr. Cynthia Herrington, the heart surgeon who performed Adonis' transplant in an email. "When we did rounds, he would say hi and tug on our white coats and try out new words with us."
Herrington said without a transplant, patients with Adonis' condition can't survive long.
"We are so fortunate a donor heart came along just in time," she said. The new heart will last Adonis for 18 to 20 years, she said.
Richardson said she hopes to spread the word that parents can donate their children's organs, should the chance arise.
And to the parents of the donor whose heart Adonis received, she said, "I would say thank you a thousand times."