Health | Uplifting | Family

5 Celebs Open Up About The Joys And Struggles Of Parenting A Seriously Ill Child

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Daily Mail

Sylvester Stallone's faith has been tested many times over the course of his life, but he managed to overcome all the hardships and is still standing strong.  

He met his first hurdle the moment he was born on July 6, 1946. Due to complications that arose during his mother's labor, the obstetricians had to use forceps to retrieve him, but in the process they accidentally severed a nerve. This resulted in the paralysis of the lower left side of his face, including his lip, tongue, and chin.

As he got older, he decided to pursue a career in acting, but that was no easy feat. Stallone's first starring role was in a softcore pornographic film, which he claimed he did out of desperation. He was evicted from his apartment at the time, and had been sleeping at a bus station prior to taking on the controversial role.

"It was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end – the very end – of my rope," Stallone said in an interview a few years ago.

He eventually worked his way up the fame ladder with box office hits like Rocky, Rambo, and Demolition Man. He amassed plenty of awards throughout his decades-long career, including a Golden Globe.

However, Stallone struggled to find happiness in his personal life. He has been married three times: The first time was in 1974 to Sasha Czack. They welcomed two sons, Sage Moonblood in May 1976 and Seargeoh in 1979, before getting a divorce in 1985. That same year, he married model and actress Brigitte Nielsen, but their relationship ended in a highly publicized divorce two years later.

He finally settled down with his third wife, former model Jennifer Flavin, in 1997, and they now have three daughters, Sophia, Sistine, and Scarlet.

Still, Stallone had even more difficult times ahead, having to deal with losing one of his sons and raising a daughter with a serious medical condition.

In 2012, Sage Moonblood was found dead in his home. Although there was a lot of speculation surrounding the 36-year-old's sudden death, a toxicology report came back "negative except for a sub-therapeutic level of hydrocodone." Turns out, his death was brought on by a hidden heart condition.

"This agonizing loss will be felt for the rest of our lives," Stallone said in a statement. "Sage is our first child and the center of our universe and I am humbly begging for all to have my son’s memory and soul left in peace."

Just a few weeks after Sage was laid to rest, Stallone's 48-year-old half-sister, Tori Ann Filiti, died of lung cancer.

In addition to all the tragedy, the Stallones were subjected to another troubling situation: Sophia was to undergo heart surgery at the end of that year.

"This is a terrible year, a horrible year for him. Sylvester is devastated...," Flavin said at the time.

The oldest of the Stallone sisters was born in 1996 with a form of Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) called an atrioventricular septum. The condition occurs when a baby is born with a hole in the wall between the left and right sides of the heart, allowing blood to flow between the chambers. Although rare, the condition is curable with surgery.

Sophia was just two-and-a-half months old when she was forced to undergo her first open-heart surgery at a Los Angeles hospital. UCLA pediatric cardiologist Dr. Stacey Drant reassured the Stallones that they had nothing to worry about.

"Every child I've seen operated on has survived...In terms of surgery, it's a slam dunk," Drant told E! News.

Stallone and Flavin confirmed the news a week before the procedure, and thankfully, the surgery was a success, and Sophia was cleared to go home after a few days of observation.

"I've been staying at the hospital with Jennifer every night," Stallone said in a statement after the surgery. "I have been blessed with two miracles within the past nine weeks--that of my daughter being born and that of my daughter being reborn."

Unfortunately, around the age of 16, Sophia's cardiac malformation triggered a problem with a heart valve, and she required another surgery.

Considering everything the family had already gone through that year, the timing couldn't be any more worse, but both Sophia and her parents have been trying to make the best of the hand they were dealt with.

"Every day I think of my heart," Sophia told Paris Match magazine in 2012. "I eat really healthy, and as I get more tired than normal, I have to be very careful when doing sports. Now I have to have surgery again because the tissue they put in 16 years ago has widened and I have problems with the valves. If all goes well, I will spend five days in the hospital."

Sophia's mother then explained that the her illness has taken a toll on the entire family, but Stallone has taken it especially hard because he and Sophia have a special bond.

"She is the one that most resembles her father," Flavin said. "Like him she has read nearly all of Shakespeare's books. They have a very special bond, they think alike and even have the same gestures, Sophia is the love of his life."

Flavin also revealed that they had plans to make the remaining months leading up to the surgery as special as possible for their ill daughter. "This is Sophia's year. A very special year," said Flavin. "Sly and I have thought about everything she wants and what can make her happy."

They decided that she would attend the Bal des Débutantes in Paris, which was scheduled to take place a month before the surgery.

"Bruce Willis’ wife Emma told us about it after Tallulah participated last year. We put the idea to Sophia and she loved it," said her mother.

Sophia had the chance to dance with Stallone at the black tie affair, she later admitted that was her first dance ever with her father and it was "the best moment for me."

She successfully underwent surgery eight days before Christmas, and life has only gotten better since.

In a 2016 interview with The Telegraph, a 20-year-old Sophia candidly spoke about how much her heart condition impacted her and her family.

"I can do everything now," she said. "I just have these scars. And, actually, I feel like a better person today because of what happened – more of an old soul, I guess."

She continued, "It forced me to grow up, seeing my mum and dad freaking out the way they did. Watching them crying and looking so terrified meant that I had to hold it together, and when I was getting a little woozy just before, I remember looking at mum and dad crying and saying to them, 'I love you and I will come out of this.'"

Despite Sophia's honest admission, her mother still felt sad that her daughter was robbed of her teenage years because of her condition. "Sophia had never had a boyfriend at that time and she should have been thinking about school and going on dates, not going through something so heavy."

For now, CHD is on the back burner, and Sophia has other priorities that are keeping her busy.

Sophia, who turns 22 in August, is currently a communications major (with a minor in entrepreneurship and film) at the University of Southern California, where she's also a member of a sorority.

“I want to be an entrepreneur and run my own fashion and makeup line,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

Sophia previously talked about her love for theater and the desire to become an actress, but she gave up on that dream when she realized how harsh the industry can be. However, she's still open to appearing in front of the camera if the opportunity arises.

She recently appeared as a guest judge on the Lifetime television show Project Runway, and last year, she and her sister's were chosen to hand out trophies at the 2017 Golden Globes Awards.

Lifetime

Miss Golden Globes is a Hollywood Foreign Press tradition that dates back to 1960s which selects a celebrity offspring to give away the coveted statuettes. It was sort of like a debut for the Stallone sisters.

Sophia also appeared alongside her younger sisters on the cover of Harper's Bazaar's April 2017 issue. From the looks of her Instagram, she also occasionally models alongside her sister, Sistine.

As for Stallone, he hasn't recently publicly spoken about the nerve-racking time  and his family went through all those years ago, but during one of his past interviews, he expressed gratitude to those who helped save Sophia's life.  

"My daughter had heart surgery and I saw this doctor and thought, ‘He has the power of life and death.’ That is my new hero," Stallone said.

Sylvester Stallone isn't the only celeb who's kid has turned their health struggles into their motivation for success.

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