ATLANTA - Mia Hope has spent nearly every day of her life waiting, first for a family, and now for a second chance. But if life in limbo weighs heavily on the tiny Conyers, Georgia, 5-year old, you'd never know it.
"She's the most joy-filled little person you will ever meet," Alison Hope, says. "She's amazing. She's a light. And she is the light of our family."
Mia is the sixth of Alison and Bryce Hope's children, 3 biological, 3 adopted. Together, over the last decade, the couple has fostered close to 40 kids. Mia came to them in April of 2015, the most fragile. She'd been born with Turner syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects her entire body, leaving her liver without the blood flow it needs to function. At 2-and a half, they say, she weighed just 16 pounds, and was so tiny, she fit in 3-to 6-month-old baby clothing. As a newborn, facing open heart surgery for a congenital heart defect, Mia had been surrendered by her biological parents.
"I remember holding her at one of the doctor's offices, and she was just so tiny, you could feel every single rib in her body," Brice Hope, her father, says. " She was just so tiny!"
But, in her new home, Mia blossomed and began to connect with Alison and Brice.
"And it was rough (at first) because she was a very standoffish little girl," her father remembers. "But you saw her start to say, 'I will accept your affection, I will let you sit next to me, I will let you take care of me."
After 1,016 days in foster care, in the fall of 2015, Mia was adopted and became a Hope.
Then, in April of 2017, with her liver quickly fail, Mia was placed on a transplant waiting list.
"It's really hard when you have a sick kid," Alison Hope says. "There is no easy way to describe what the last 221 days have been like for us. Watching your kid steadily decline is really hard."
"She is so young that she doesn't understand all the implications of, "Hey, I'm waiting for an internal organ to be replaced, inside,'" says Brice Hope. "So, so she plays, and she just enjoys life."
But the Hopes know a donor's liver is the only chance Mia has of getting better.
"And really we've got one shot to get it right, so I want them to get the absolute perfect liver to put in her," says Alison Hope.
In the Christian season of waiting, the Hopes found themselves praying for their phone to ring.
"All we could ever wish for for Christmas would be Mia to get her gift of life, nothing would mean more than that," Mia's mother says.
On December 18, 2017, after 238 days of waiting, the Hopes got their Christmas wish.
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston flew its transplant flag outside the hospital's front doors, for Mia.
It reads, "An organ transplant is saving the life of a child today."And when it was time for her transplant surgery, in true Mia form, she took the lead. She grabbed her parents' hands and walked herself back into the operating room.