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Walking miracle

5-year-old Mia bouncing back after life-saving live transplant

Five-year old Amelia “Mia” Hill underwent a lifesaving transplant after suffering acute liver failure.

Amelia “Mia” Hill is a precocious, fun-loving 5-year-old who adores Disney, board games, puzzles, dancing and singing and aspires to be a teacher like her mom when she grows up. Despite her tender age, she’s also a survivor.

On May 3, when she couldn’t keep any food or drink down, her parents blamed a stomach bug.

“We wanted to bring her to the doctor, but she seemed to get better as the evening went on,” recalls her dad, Jesse Hill.

The next day, he awoke to his wife, Stephanie, frantically yelling, “Jesse, call 911! Mia isn’t waking up!” Paramedics soon arrived and transported her to Singing River Hospital in Ocean Springs, where she was transferred to USA Women and Children’s Hospital in Mobile.

Lab results there revealed that Mia was in in acute liver failure and likely would need a transplant — soon.

The hospital does not have a transplant center, so Ochsner Health System sent a helicopter to take Mia to New Orleans while her distraught parents followed two hours behind.

“Our minds were racing,” Jesse recalls. “The night before, we were planning a family summer vacation, then we woke up to the ultimate fear of losing our child.”


Due to her youth and being a Status 1A (most critical) patient, Mia landed high on the list of hopeful liver recipients. Her placement reflected that she was unlikely to live beyond a few days without a transplant. Fortunately, she was listed on May 6 and received her new organ on May 8.

“Stephanie and I were surrounded by family, but while the surgery took place, we were with our sisters reflecting on how much we love Amelia and each other,” Jesse says. “It’s exactly what we needed in that moment.”

Mia rests at the hospital while under close watch by her mother, Stephanie, and Dr. Ryan Himes of Ochsner Health.

Despite warnings of potential delays and complications, Jesse describes Mia’s surgery as “textbook.” She was discharged on May 18, but the family had to live close to the hospital for six weeks afterward for observation, bloodwork, ultrasounds and clinics.

The ordeal caused Mia to miss her preschool graduation, and for the next year, she must remain virtually quarantined to mitigate infection risk. Stephanie, a dyslexia therapist and teacher at Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia in Ocean Springs, will be taking a year off to homeschool her daughter, and the Hills’ 2-year-old son, Danny, will not attend preschool to reduce the risk of exposure. Jesse, a singer and small business owner, will keep working while taking precautions, such as wearing a mask, limiting physical contact and washing his hands frequently.

The huge outpouring of community support through prayer and donations, along with an unwavering faith, has sustained the family through the hardest moments.

“Many times, Stephanie and I wanted to fall to pieces, but everyone invested in Amelia’s story has hoisted us up for the next challenge,” Jesse says. “I will never be able to repay to love and support we’ve received, but we will strive for the rest of our lives to pay it forward.”

Amelia “Mia” Hill (center) with her parents, Stephanie (left) and Jesse Hill right)


Mia, too, offers heartfelt thanks to everyone who prayed for her and sent cards and toys. Her parents have tried their best to be transparent, showing her pictures, videos and X-rays of everything that happened. Rather than being bothered by her scar, she finds it “cool” that it resembles a wave from the Disney movie, “Moana.”

“I’ll miss my first year in kindergarten, but that’s OK; I have Mommy teaching me. She’s a great teacher,” Mia says. “Thank you, Jesus, for helping me and for keeping my family and friends happy and healthy.”

Jesse finds his daughter’s new outlook on life the most rewarding part of the experience, and in the future, he sees her advocating for transplant patients and raising awareness with her testimony — urging others to consider blood, platelet or organ donation.

“The human body was built by divine thought and action, and we can all help each other,” Jesse says. “Give the gift of life.”

As a father, his own priorities, hopes and dreams have completely changed. For instance, he’s come away knowing more than ever that time is people’s most precious currency.

“Give your children time; they want to be your best friend, and they want to give you more love than anyone on Earth can give you,” Jesse says. “Give them time to love you, and love them unconditionally in return.”

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