An 11-year-old girl with a rare, life-threatening auto-immune disease and big-time love for the NHL's St. Louis Blues got the surprise of a lifetime recently, thanks to her favorite team.
Laila Anderson has Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH, a disease that results in her body making too many immune cells. But she hasn't let that stop her from celebrating and representing her beloved team -- and 2019 Stanley Cup winners -- the Blues.
When she rang her treatment bell in May, 100 days after her bone-marrow transplant, she wore a St. Louis Blues headband and the players' numbers on her back.
At the time, her doctors would only let her leave home to go to treatment at the St. Louis Children's Hospital.
But later that May, her mother shared some amazing news with her and posted the video on Twitter: Laila would be attending Game 3 of a Blues playoff series and her doctors had given her the green light to go.
"Are you kidding me?" she said through tears in a post on the Blues' Twitter page. "Will this also be my first playoff game?"
When the team made history in June by winning its first Stanley Cup in the team's 52-year NHL existence by beating the Boston Bruins in Game 7, she was right there -- after they'd invited her to Boston. The players even called her on the ice with them and they inscribed Laila's name on their rings.
But on Tuesday, they had one more gesture for Laila to show her how much she inspired them and how much they appreciated her: a Stanley Cup ring all her own.
Blues players Alexander Steen and Colton Parayko had the ring with them when they visited Laila at her home.
"You know how much you mean to us, right?" Steen said. "And what an inspiration you’ve been to so many people. So me and Colton are here representing our organization and everybody there and we have something that we would like you to open right now."
Laila got emotional as she opened the box and was seen first kissing the ring and then putting it on her finger.
"Oh, my God," she said, wiping away tears. "I feel like I shouldn’t be touching this right now."
"It's her whole hand," said her mother, Heather, laughing.
Laila, floating between laughter and tears, told Steen and Parayko that the ring fit "beautifully."