Olympic hockey hero T.J. Oshie, who scored the overtime goals that helped Team USA beat Russia in Sochi, took on an even greater challenge when he returned home: watching over the recovery of his infant daughter, thrust into immediate surgery after her birth with a serious defect.
Oshie, 27, and his fiancée, Lauren Cosgrove, welcomed daughter Lyla Grace on March 17. But there was a problem.
“It’s called gastroschisis, and when she’s born, her bowel is outside of her stomach, which means her stomach closed without her bowel getting inside of her,” Oshie revealed on Today.
Oshie and Cosgrove had to wait days before they could even cradle their newborn.
“It was the most wonderful feeling being able to hold her for the first time,” says Cosgrove. “I can’t really describe how it felt. It was great.”
The past few months have been a roller-coaster ride for Oshie, whose team, the St. Louis Blues, is tied with Boston atop the NHL’s standings.
“It’s surreal,” he says. “It was a pretty cool way to win there in Russia, and then get over here and the team here in St. Louis is doing great, and then Lyla Grace shows up, and she trumps everything.”
A spokeswoman for St. Louis Children’s Hospital tells PEOPLE that Lyla Grace’s condition is typically not life-threatening, and they see 10 to 12 cases of the defect at the hospital each year.
But while her parents have been a constant presence in the neonatal intensive care unit, the little girl could be headed home as soon as next week.
“Her surgery was a success,” says hospital spokeswoman Jackie Ferman. “From all signs, her intestines are working normally. She’s learning to eat normally.”
Pediatric surgeon Dr. Brad Warner told Today: “Lyla has been like a St. Louis Blues hockey player. She’s done beautifully, just like her dad.”
Proud papa Oshie – who took off just one game for the birth and scored another overtime shootout goal earlier this week for the Blues to help keep his team in playoff contention – has put his daughter’s challenge in perspective by keeping his eyes on the prize.
“She’s adorable,” he says. “You catch yourself holding her for like two hours, and you’re looking at her the whole time.”