LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- One Southern California baby has spent her entire first year of life at the NICCU at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Kennedy Lanier has been fighting for her life every day inside CHLA's Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit. On Tuesday, her family sang a song of joy for her first birthday.
Doctors called her year-long journey a rare occasion.
"She has made a ton of progress over this year and has really gotten through many, many obstacles," Dr. Rachel Chapman said.
Her young mother, Marrietta Lanier, has stayed by her side.
Kennedy was airlifted to CHLA at only four hours old. She was 10 weeks premature and born with a host of congenital defects, including skin and lung issues. Her esophagus was not attached to her stomach, and she had no opening at the end of her digestive tract.
"In terms of her medical milestones, she's gotten through multiple different surgeries," Chapman said.
But now, Kennedy sits up by herself and wiggles to music.
She will need life-long care, but the multiple surgeries and physical therapy are helping her gain more independence. The hope is that she graduates from the NICCU soon.
"We are all very hopeful that we are getting very close to the finish line and we are close to getting Kennedy home," Champman said.
Doctors weren't sure she'd survive her most recent procedure, but each day Kennedy gets stronger.
"She has eight teeth now so it's like this toothy smile and it brightens up your day," Marrietta said. "As a mother, the only thing you want to do is make sure that your child is OK."