BUCKEYE, Ariz. – It was an emotional day for one Valley eighth grader and her family.
Maia Thompson is celebrating her 14th birthday, just one year after finding herself suddenly clinging to life in the hospital.
The plan for Friday’s surprise assembly at Verrado Heritage Elementary School started weeks ago, but the message for Maia and hundreds of her classmates is more than just a happy birthday.
As Maia walked through a tunnel and sea of green, she quickly became the guest of honor at her school’s hero assembly.
“Everyone celebrated my birthday at school at the assembly, the whole school did,” Maia said. “[I was] overwhelmed.”
In September of 2015, a miracle happened. Maia got a liver transplant after becoming deathly ill nearly overnight.
At the time, her mom, Christine Thompson, thought she was going to have to say goodbye to her baby girl forever.
“Every day just seemed to be moving slower and slower and every day I was wondering if this was going to be it,” Christine said. “Our thought was, is this the last time we’re going to be able to kiss our daughter goodbye?”
Maia is feeling better than ever just 12 months later with her new liver, and she is competitively swimming again.
Now, Maia and her family are telling hundreds of preschool through eighth graders about the legacy donors leave.
“Because we were so blessed, we need to help educate the community,” Christine said.
“It’s important because you need to give back to those who need it,” Maia said.
It’s a legacy that will live on in Maia. One they hope to someday share with Maia’s donor’s family too.
“I would say thank you and what a gift they’ve given our family,” Christine said.
There are more than 2,300 people waiting for a transplant right now in Arizona and more than 120,000 across the nation.
To get in touch with Donate Life Arizona, visit https://www.donatelifeaz.org
Copyright 2016 KPNX