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After 848 days at Rady's, toddler is going home for the first time

A homecoming more than two years in the making. KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman was at Rady Children’s hospital Tuesday, where a special patient got a special sendoff.

After 848 days, 2-year-old Addy Smith is going to her San Marcos home for the first time ever.

"We were hesitant, we were scared, but we're excited to just have this day," said Addy's mom, Aliesha Smith.

Addy was surrounded by dozens of family, friends and caretakers as she left Rady Children's Hospital Tuesday. She was born premature in December 2019 and developed chronic lung disease. Her condition was so severe that she was not able to leave the hospital. There were times it was unclear if she would ever go home.

"She gave everyone a kind of run for their money, but she held out and she’s the sweetest little thing in the whole world," Aliesha said.

Addy's dad, Chris Smith, said his daughter is his hero.

"She's like no other human that I know," Chris said. "She's been through so much."

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Addy's parents rarely left her side. They are from San Marcos, but ended up staying near the Kearny Mesa hospital to be close to their daughter.

"We lived at the Ronald McDonald House across the street and we lived there for a year just to be close to her, because honestly we spent a year not knowing if she was going make it to the next day," Aliesha said.

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Roland Lizarondo/KPBS
2-year-old Addy Smith is leaving the hospital after being born premature and battling chronic lung disease.

Doctors said they have never seen a case like Addy’s before. She had ongoing respiratory failure and constantly needed to be on a ventilator.

"She had very critically-ill lungs and we really struggled to help support her," said Dr. Jeanne Carroll, who was Addy's primary neonatologist at Rady Children's Hospital. "But the parents persevered, she persevered and we found a way to get her home."

Her stay of 848 days is the longest a patient has ever been at Rady's. While Addy was admitted, her brother was born. Their parents cannot wait to have everyone home.

"It’s really everything," Aliesha said holding back tears. "Our son, who is six months, we haven’t been able to spend as much time with him as we would obviously had liked to because we were here with Addy and we had to prioritize all that. Just to be able to have both of them home under one roof together is everything."

Being hospitalized during the pandemic meant family and friends could not see Addy much. Her grandparents said after two years, they have some ground to make up.

"Being together at Christmas, being together for her birthday, just enjoying those times," said Addy's grandmother Cathee Smith. "We have hardly held her or seen her in two years — we have missed so much but we’ll make up for it."

Doctors are hopeful that Addy’s lungs will continue to grow, even to a point where she can be off a ventilator one day.