In February, she turned five. At birth, the odds against her lasting 20 minutes were massive. But Wee Li'l Mia Wilson had the one thing in her favor the doctors hadn't counted. She's a Weaver, and as a Weaver, my granddaughter's a born fighter. She just never gives up.

Mia was born with Ebstein's Anomaly, a rare defect involving the right side of the heart. It produces one that's severely flawed and happens when the tricuspid valve develops improperly. The valve, dividing the two chambers in the right side of the heart, forms too far down into the ventricle, making the right ventricle much smaller and weaker than normal hearts.

To give her the best chance, Mia went through more operations and medical procedures than her Mom and Dad care to recall. She was born deaf, had a cochlear implant to help her hear, could not develop speaking like normal children, had numerous stomach operations, suffered several strokes and has undergone two major open heart surgeries, all in the first year of life. But to look at this happy child, you'd never know it.

For the first three years, she was terribly afraid of me. My wife, Peggy, said it was the nautical hat I wear. Our daughter, Wendy, mentioned my beard. Mia's sisters, Nina, AnnaMay and Ella, thought it was my voice. My son-in-law, Bobby, said it was just the way I looked, claiming I could scare anyone. With the mug I've got, I'm inclined to agree with Bobby.

And then one day I stopped for a visit and Mia never cried. She was so proud of herself. For her, that was a major stride. "Look, Grandpa," she gushed, "I'm not crying." I rewarded her with two shiny new pennies. Thus began the shiny new penny era.

Each time I'd see her she'd hold out her hand for two shiny pennies. Not dull, dirty, worn pennies. These had to be two new ones, and as shiny as possible. She saves them in her piggy bank.

Her two cardiac operations were temporary fixes. They were designed to get her to age five so she could gain strength. We knew the next open heart surgery would be during the first part of 2016. The longer we waited, the better chances Mia had. But by waiting too long, more problems could develop.

As readers know, I've had two open heart surgeries; both on the mitral valve. Five years later, a pacemaker was implanted. It's known that the more open heart surgeries, the more your chances diminish. Compounded with all her problems, I can't imagine Mia's odds, and I really don't want to know.

Over the past year, we've bonded like I've never imagined. "Sing a song, Grandpa," she'd say whenever I’d ask her what she wanted to do.

"A song?" I'd respond, playfully. "Hmmm! Let's see now. What kind of song should grandpa sing to Mia?"

"The spaghetti song," she'd giggle. With that, I'd begin. "On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese…" Mia would act it out with facial expressions and hands and laugh a blue streak whenever I'd reach the part where the meatball falls onto the floor and rolls out the door. That, and "Ol' Mr. Froggy" are her favorites.

On May 19, Mia went through her third open heart surgery. That's a lot for a five year old. This process is called a FONTAN Palliation operation. Everyone, myself included, has been on pins and needles, praying God guides the hands of her skilled surgeons, and that Mia comes through drenched in His Divine Grace, Love and Blessings.

Our hound, Sadie Lou, and I covered home base with direct updates, informing family and friends of her progress while Peggy and the rest of the family drove to Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan hospital complex.

"It's never easy to hand your child over for any type of surgery," Wendy wrote in an update, "let alone one where they will be cracking open her chest, going on heart by-pass and patching together her heart so that two chambers are doing the work that should normally be done by four. It's even harder when she's already had two open hearts, three other major surgeries and more heart catherizations and procedures than I can count. Having said that, today was STELLAR! Truly text book, without any of the usual 'Mia complications.' I'm still amazed at how smoothly it went."

Those words were like music. In recovery, Wendy noticed how Mia's legs were no longer purple (a sign of very low oxygen), but rather a healthy pink.

On Friday, just one day after surgery, she was sitting up with her oxygen tube removed. The next day she was walking. When she saw Peggy, the first thing she asked, was, "Where's Grandpa?"

And then Peggy gave her three shiny new pennies. "Thank you," she said with a big, bright smile.

When I see her again, her Ol' Grandpa will sing "On Top Of Spaghetti."

You can follow Wee Li'l Mia's progress on these two web sites: and

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