All they want for ChristmasBy BUSTER WOLFE,
Addison Preston knows she’s pretty, cute, bright and smart. Most times, the 5-year-old preschooler at Sumrall Elementary School will tell you so.
When someone walks up to her and says that she’s cute, she’ll answer, “I know, right?” It’s not that she doesn’t believe it, but she wants to make sure that you believe it too.
For a 5-year-old, Addison is a star, a diva and an entertainer that lives for the spotlight. Which is pretty unusual for her, considering the difficult time she had just in her first year of life.
Addison’s mother, Shylana McFarland, said she had no idea that her daughter was having any physical problems until she was born.
“It started out with a cleft palate and low oxygen when she was born,” McFarland said. “Then it seems there was something new every day for a month. She was hospitalized in Jackson for two months. That’s where we had two surgeries then. The first one was stomach surgery where they put a feeding tube in, did a mild rotational of her bowels and put in this device called a Nissen that would stop her when she was having reflux. After that surgery, her body did not want to adopt the ventilator and they couldn’t wean her off. So we had to do open-heart surgery a couple of weeks later, they weaned her off and Addison got out of the hospital on Dec. 12, 2015.”
McFarland remembers the day that Addison left the hospital because it was the day after 20 children and six adults were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Addison still had hospitalizations to endure.
“After that, we had do two feedings and fatten her up for the next open-heart surgery a year later,” McFarland said. “She had to stay inside because she had a low immune system, couldn’t get sick and people couldn’t be around. If you came over, we had sanitizer at the door. It was pretty scary. I had to stay at home for a while. We didn’t take her anywhere.”
However, Addison came back really well from the second heart surgery, McFarland said.
“We had to get her ready for her second open-heart surgery,” she said. “She literally bounced back from that one like a champ. She was at the hospital for five days.”
More surgeries followed – to repair a cleft palate and to remove the feeding tube.
“The cleft palate repair was supposed to be one of the simplest procedures, but it was hard because they had used tubes in her nose and she was awake,” McFarland said. “She was just miserable. And when they took the feeding tube out, it was supposed to close back up, but it didn’t. It seemed like everything was against us; we couldn’t catch a break.”
To look at the little dynamo now, you wouldn’t realize that she has gone through two open-heart surgeries. Her preschool teacher, Lisa Page, said Addison rocks the schoolhouse.
“She is definitely a blessing from above to everybody she meets,” she said. “She is a celebrity here. She’s a diva. She loves to dance. I have only seen her one time when she wasn’t smiling. And she brings a smile to everybody she meets.”
While Addison has two older brothers – C.J. Preston, 14, and Cameron Jefferson, 11 – she runs the house, said her father, Alton Preston.
“She doesn’t really get that attitude from her mother or me,” he said. “She’s her own person.”
All the adults who know her – and naturally love her – say that Addison is “all girl.”
“She likes jewelry, bracelets, necklaces and earrings, hairpieces and shoes,” Page said. “She has more shoes than I do. She is definitely a girl. When she was little when she first started going to school, she would go to lunch. After lunch, she would come climb in my lap and we’d have to rock. She has always been so loving though, so loving.”
Her father said Addison wants to do gymnastics, and Page recommended dance classes.
“She can do a lot of things, I’m sure,” McFarland said, “because she’s a comedian.”
Page said Addison has performed regularly in the classroom.
“She was dancing for the whole class a few days ago,” she said. “She had that hand on her hip and she was dancing. Then she circled around all of the chairs and come back. She needs to be in a dance class. She also needs an agent to represent her.”
McFarland said Addison takes her show on the road with regular shopping trips.
“A trip to the grocery turns into a meet and greet forever, literally a meet and greet,” she said. “I told her, ‘Look, Addison, we don’t have any time so don’t speak to anybody. We need to be in and out.’ She’ll say, ‘All right, OK.’ It didn’t work. So she meets this guy and says, ‘Hi. How are you doing today (in a staccato voice)?’ He’s like, ‘I’m doing good. How are you doing?’ ‘I’m good.’
“The man asked, ‘What’s your name?’ She said, ‘Addison.’ The man said to me, ‘What?’ I said, ‘She said, “Addison.”’ He was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ He pulled out an obituary of his son who passed away last year. His name was Addison.”
McFarland said that occurrence is really not unusual.
“This happens so often that she will make a connection with people either that have a son that passed away or someone who has had heart surgery themselves,” she said. “This is just a lot of weird occurrences.”
McFarland credits Addison’s overflowing personality with her ability to make friends.
“If she doesn’t get along with you, there must be something wrong with you,” she said. “And she will make you talk with her. One day, one of my neighbors was standing beside me and Addison was saying hey to everybody she saw. One guy looked at her and didn’t speak. Addison spoke up loudly, ‘I speak to everybody.’ One of my neighbors and I just died laughing.”
McFarland said she has been working with the local American Heart Association representatives.
“We have done everything possible to become one of the Mississippi Heart Heroes,” she said. “I have worked to put together a summary as a background for her life.”
For Addison, it has been a life that she is enjoying every day forward.