Pink and purple balloons and matching streamers dotted the crowded living room of the Grewal family home in Surrey. A glass trophy sits centred on a mantel, etched with the words, “Delta Rotary Youth ‘Golden Heart’ Award” and below that, “Muskaan Grewal.”
About a metre away, Muskaan herself sat in a large armchair in a corner, surrounded by tissue paper and gift bags. Her arms clutched a new stuffed animal — a giraffe with star-shaped spots.
“Are you going to name him?” asked a relative.
The six-year-old Surrey girl — who was born with dilated cardiomyopathy, which enlarges and weakens the heart — flashed her now famous toothy grin and nodded excitedly in response.
“Name him Muskaan!” chimed in a boy cousin, much to the amusement of family members looking on. “Muskaan No. 2!”
But there is only one Muskaan Grewal in this world and on Saturday, the young heart transplant recipient returned home to B.C. in good spirits, ending a very uncertain chapter in her life.
Last fall, she became the youngest person in the world to receive a specialized heart pump, a battery-operated piece of machinery that kept her alive and stable.
After 10 months of living with the temporary solution, Muskaan finally received a new heart. The surgery was performed July 17 at Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital, where she had been recovering from an infection.
A Facebook page maintained by a cousin shared regular photos and updates about Muskaan’s progress throughout the entire ordeal. Strangers who heard her story from Facebook and in media were so touched by it that some even visited Muskaan when she was in hospital.
This weekend saw the girl and her father return home and into the waiting arms of nearly two dozen family members at a surprise homecoming party.
“It’s going to be a new life for us, after so many years,” said Muskaan’s dad Harman Grewal.
In the past, his daughter’s old heart restricted her from keeping up with others on a playground, and she was often so exhausted, she was unable to walk for long periods of time.
“Before, we always worried about Muskaan. It’s always scary for us,” Grewal told Vancouver Desi. “Now we are more comfortable because of her new heart and now, a new life for her.”
Also waiting for the girl at home was a large and colourful banner decorated by her cousins, covered with Disney Princess stickers and various descriptive words like “brave”, “lovable”, and “fighter.”
“Charismatic” and “cheeky” weren’t on the banner but would have also been fitting.
Aside from the small hint of a scar that peeks above her shirt collar, Muskaan’s playfulness and precocious sense of humour would never betray the many challenges she’s already had to conquer.
“I was so surprised,” Muskaan said of the massive welcoming committee that greeted her. “I said, ‘That’s the surprise! Oh.’ I thought it was just a little party.”
Her only complaint about returning home is that her bed isn’t “bouncy like before” after being away for more than a month.
“It was way comfier,” she said, sparking laughter from aunts and uncles.
It will still be a year before doctors can say how well Muskaan’s body is handling the new heart, but for now, Grewal is just happy to be home with his little girl, who has been recovering steadily since the surgery.
“I don’t have words to say or express all my feelings but I’m very happy,” Grewal said. “It’s amazing. I look at Muskaan — she stayed strong all the time.
“Now she has a new heart and is starting a new life.”