By Staff Sgt. Bryanna Poulin, III Corps and Fort Hood Public AffairsDecember 15, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas (Dec. 15, 2011) -- Lights shined brightly in the East Atrium during the annual III Corps and Fort Hood Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony Dec. 7, but the glow on one set of parent's faces shone even brighter as they watched their little girl help the commanding general light the Christmas tree.
"We got the news a few days before that Alexis would be helping Lieutenant General Don Campbell, III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, light the Christmas tree, and we were just thrilled," said Teresa Dalton, wife of Spc. Donald Derek Dalton, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. "We thank Campbell for allowing our Lexi to accompany him in lighting the Christmas tree. It was a tremendous honor and memory we will never forget."
But lighting the tree wasn't the sole reason for the Daltons to be excited for their daughter.
"This is the first Christmas she hasn't been sick," Teresa said. "It's a true miracle she's here, and the journey we have gone to get here."
The long road started seven years ago when Lexi was a newborn.
"I had taken her to the doctor for a regular checkup, and they had me there for a few hours," she said. "We found out when she was a month old that she was having renal failure and wasn't thriving properly. At first, they (doctors) thought it was a fluke because of how badly the test was, and they ended up doing it three times because her kidney was that bad."
The initial news shocked the Dalton family, who didn't want their newborn daughter to spend hours on dialysis, an extensive treatment needed when kidneys can no longer take care of the body's needs.
"Within a few days of the initial tests, we found out she only had one kidney, which was severely deformed with cysts and functioning between 10 to 15 percent (capacity)," Lexi's mom said. "We were told to go home and prepare to do dialysis with her, which is something we didn't want her to go through."
Aside from the dialysis, the Dalton family was also told their daughter would not live to see the age of 1.
"Even if she did see past the age of 1, she would be on dialysis for 14 hours a day, and at that point, we were already planning to have the chaplain pray for us," Derek said.
With family and friends praying for Lexi, the Dalton parents knew deep down their daughter would make it through.
"We knew things were going to work out somehow, someway she was going to make it," Teresa added.
Although medicine helped for many years, eventually the topic of a transplant arose.
"Right before we moved to Texas in 2008, the doctors in North Carolina said we were going to have to start thinking about the transplant, and my prayer has always been a transplant over dialysis," Teresa said. "We're blessed to be at Fort Hood where her nephrologists monitored and constantly tweaked her medicine."
But eventually the medicines weren't enough for their little girl. The Daltons, who have been married for 12 years, decided to start testing for a donor.
"They started testing my husband (Derek) and sister last January for matches," Teresa said. "Of course, he (Derek) was the perfect match, and everything was laid out perfectly after that."
While Derek was a perfect match, the family also considers him a champion.
"He's our hero multiplied by a 1,000," Teresa said. "He's super dad."
Although he's considered super dad, Derek said there was never any hesitation to save his daughter.
"There was never any anxiety or worry over this procedure if it meant saving my daughter," he said. "The tree-lighting ceremony is one of many holiday events we are able to spend with her now."