Photographed here flashing a peace sign from a location in downtown Chicago overlooking the Chicago River on Saint Patrick’s day 2018, Mia Lobo often played the mediator of the family, according to her father Dominic Lobo.

Giving Spirit of 5-Year-Old Organ Donor Mia Lobo Lives On

Saying yes to organ and tissue donation can help save the lives of other people, but it’s a decision that’s often difficult for grieving families to make. For Dominic and Maria Lobo of Carpentersville, Ill., the courageous yet difficult decision to say yes to donation meant saying goodbye to their 5-year-old daughter Mia, who died from complications tied to the H1N1 flu virus on April 21, 2018.

Mia had a history of seizures associated with fever, so it wasn’t necessarily unusual when she had a seizure after falling ill with the flu and spiking a high fever. But after Mia collapsed and became unresponsive, Dominic and Maria rushed her to the nearest hospital emergency department. Mia was later admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., where they learned the virus had spread to her brain.

The Star of the Show

Mia was just about to perform in her first ballet recital before she passed away, and she was also active in soccer and gymnastics.

“She was your typical happy, bubbly 5-year-old,” Dominic said. “She loved being the star of the show. She loved being on camera. She loved taking selfies and videos of herself.”

Mia also had a ball spending time with her younger brother Miles and older sister Darlene and often played the mediator of the family, keeping everyone grounded if discussions ever got heated. Dominic says Mia made sure everyone would “make up” if they ever got mad at each other.

She was also a natural extrovert and could talk to just about anyone. “She’s just this tiny little girl, but she could talk to like a 6-foot-7, 300-pound guy,” said Dominic. “She’d be your best friend, and she wouldn’t be intimidated by anybody. If you asked her a question, you always got an answer.”

Mostly, Mia had this innate kindness toward others that she expressed in her willingness to simply start conversations.

Mia’s Gift

When blood stopped flowing to Mia’s brain and doctors informed her family that her brain had stopped functioning, a Gift of Hope representative asked Dominic and Maria about organ and tissue donation. Dominic and Maria hesitated at first because it meant saying goodbye to their sweet, bubbly little girl. But because they are registered nurses, they understood the value of organ and tissue donation.

“Transplant recipients — kidney, liver, you know — there’s always somebody that’s on a waiting list for those type of procedures,” Dominic said. “I knew that’s something that Mia — and we — wanted to do because I knew that it would help somebody else from a medical standpoint.”

And little Mia did want to give back. Dominic recalls that, before Mia died, she talked about donating toys that she wasn’t playing with anymore to charity. “She’s said, ‘I don’t play with this anymore, Daddy. Can we donate this toy?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, we can do that.’ I never really got around to it before she left us, but she did mention this was something she wanted to do.”

Mia's family on Maria's birthday

A day before falling ill, Mia and her immediate family celebrated her mother Maria’s birthday in Carpentersville, Ill. Left to right: Mia, Darlene (sister), Maria (mother), Dominic (father), Miles (brother)

A Personal Decision

Dominic believes organ and tissue donation is important for people who need treatment for certain illnesses, but making the decision about whether to say yes to donation is a deeply personal one.

“It’s bittersweet that Mia is helping someone else when she’s not with us,” Dominic said. “Ultimately, [the decision to say yes to organ and tissue donation] is up to [the individual] because it is their loved one and it is not an easy decision,” said Dominic.

Through the lifesaving gift of organ donation, Mia’s parents honored their daughter’s inherent generosity and desire to help others. Mia’s gifts saved the lives of a woman in her 30s and another woman in her 40s.

Mia might have been unable to donate her toys before she passed away, but through honoring Mia’s giving spirit and desire to help others, her parents allowed her to donate the ultimate gift — the gift of life.

“Mia was able to help two other people who needed kidneys to live,” Dominic said. “Hopefully these people and their new kidneys — Mia’s kidneys — are doing well, their families are doing well, and they can live long and healthy lives because that’s what life is about. It’s about giving and receiving and everything in between.”