Cory Wharton Details the Trauma of Daughter Maya's Open-Heart Surgery

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Unfortunately, Maya's recovery was more of a two steps forward, three steps back situation. When doctors were forced to go back in the operating room to figure out why her oxygen levels were in the 70s—well below the ideal 96 to 99 percent range—they could n't find anything wrong, which was equal parts encouraging and frustrating. Quite simply, said Wharton, "Maya's body was just n't responding well."

For three extra days, she remained on a ventilator as her parents stayed by her side. "That whole process was very scary," Wharton recalled. "Having to keep her sedated, but she would wake up, it was just miserable."

A horrific, worst-nightmare situation for any parent, and yet not without hope, Wharton resolutely refusing to let his mind entertain worst-case scenarios. "Taylor will go there," said Wharton. "But I always stayed optimistic. And I knew that little girl would be fine. Listen, we are some fighters. We are warriors. And she did it."

These days, he said, his youngest is "taking flights without oxygen, her coloring's getting better, she's living her best life."

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Nathan Rivera
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