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Midway family says goodbye to daughter who falls ill in Florida

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TAMPA, Fla. — Instead of meeting their daughter's favorite Disney characters, a Midway family prepared to say goodbye to her in a Florida hospital Sunday. She was removed from life support the following day.

The family, who expected to spend the week celebrating the life of their daughter, is now sitting in a hospital room in Tampa, Fla., preparing to say goodbye.

"She loves Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse," said John McDonald.

His 4-year-old daughter Mia had big plans to meet the two characters when they left their home in Midway for a trip to Disney World on Oct. 2. The trip was granted to the family by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

In 2008, Mia got a heart transplant and in turn, a second chance at life.

"You would never know that this girl had a heart transplant," McDonald said. "She was just a beautiful, healthy looking, happy girl."

There was no buildup to this. All of a sudden, she's not here.

–- John McDonald, father

Just hours after arriving in Florida, Mia got sick — her body rejected the transplant. During a biopsy, she went into cardiac arrest. Mia suffered brain damage and has been on life support since.

She never made it to the park. The family has a picture of Minnie Mouse holding a sign that reads, "Keep fighting Mia."

"There was no buildup to this," McDonald said. "All of a sudden, she's not here."

But in the midst of their grief, the family is also thinking about a little boy named Jacob, they never knew.

On Nov. 10, 2011, the third anniversary of Mia's transplant, her mother, also a transplant recipient, made a video.

She wanted to thank the stranger who lost her son but saved Mia's life through organ donation.

That woman, who lives in Rhode Island, will meet the McDonald family for the first time Sunday to hold Mia in her arms.

"To know that part of her little boy is still alive, to know that her little boy's heart is beating and giving life is a very powerful thing," McDonald said.

It's a gift the family never took for granted. They say Jacob was always a part of their lives and they thank him for the four years he gave their little girl.

"It seems like life will be incomplete," McDonald said. "There will be a hole right in the middle of our family."

The family removed Mia from life support for good Monday. They plan on donating as many of Mia's organs as they can to help other children. Her father says answering the prayers of another family in a hospital room somewhere may help them heal and find peace.

A donation account* has been set up for the family on Give Forward to help with the medical and funeral. costs.

--- * has not verified the accuracy of the information provided with respect to the account nor does assure that the monies deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.


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Sandra Yi


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