CARSON, Calif. – A.J. DeLaGarza has spent most of the past week at his son's bedside, doing what he can, whatever that might be, to help the newborn survive. Little Luca has undergone two heart surgeries since he was born last Thursday by Caesarean section and has spent the six days on life support.
Thursday will be critical: Doctors at Children's Hospital Los Angeles will slowly wean him from life support, and if he responds positively, there will be another surgery on Monday.
It's been a rough week for the LA Galaxy defender and his wife, Megan, who learned in late April, a little more than halfway through the pregnancy, that their first child had a congenital heart defect that would need to be repaired after his birth.
It kept DeLaGarza out of Sunday's SuperClasico victory over Chivas USA, and it's likely he's going to skip Friday night's home game against Colorado (10:30 pm ET, NBCSN), too. He's in wait-and-see mode right now.
“[I'll be back] just whenever it's right,” DeLaGarza said Wednesday following his first full training session with the Galaxy since Luca arrived. “Right now I don't think it's right to be away from him when something bad could happen to him, starting tomorrow. Hopefully, Monday he's going through surgery and he looks bright and I can travel and all that to [away games next week in] Montreal and San Jose … and, hopefully, win the Supporters' Shield. …
“The plan right now is to be by his side. If something good happens, I'll be here [for the game].”
He was aiming to be available against the Rapids, but Luca took a turn for the worse Friday.
“His heart was crashing, and they had to give him CPR to save him, and then they put him on life support,” said DeLaGarza, who was on hand to watch Sunday's 3-0 romp. “So he's been on that five days out of six days of life, so tomorrow they have to get him off life support, so they can move forward and start with the next surgery.
“But they have to take him off slowly. If he does well with that, then they'll move on to the next surgery. If he doesn't, and say something happens like the second day, when his heart crashed, they'll put him back on life support it it makes sense. But if it doesn't make sense, we have to let him go peacefully.”
If all proceeds as hoped, Luca would face additional surgeries when he's 6 months and 3 years old, then would be monitored as he grows up.
The Galaxy wore “Luca Knows Heart” T-shirts, created in tandem with the club's foundation and on sale to support CHLA's heart institute, in their victory last Wednesday over D.C. United, DeLaGarza's last appearance.
DeLaGarza said being on the field again allowed him to focus on the game, “not that I forget about him or anything. … When I'm on the field, I'll even say, 'Do this for him.' When I'm feeling tired, 'Just keep going.' He's going through a lot worse than that.”
Both sets of grandparents have flown in from Maryland, and DeLaGarza's sister also has traveled to Southern California. And there's been a huge outpouring of support from throughout the American soccer community.
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DeLaGarza had with him Wednesday a child-size FC Dallas jersey, with Luca's name on the back, signed by the Galaxy's Western Conference rivals. His University of Maryland teammate Chris Seitz, a backup goalkeeper for Dallas, organized it.
“In my tweet, I said obviously we're rivals on the field, but off the field, you see all the support from MLS fans, from different teams, and our own fans,” said DeLaGarza said. “Our own organization has been top-notch with these shirts we were able to wear against D.C. The support has been tremendous.”
DeLaGarza says he and Megan have been “fortunate.”
“We've almost had a week with him,” he said. “We've been by his side the whole time, trying to comfort him as much as possible.”