Little Mia Somogyi’s smile is heartwarming, the kind that lights up a room when a visitor drops in or her mom promises a ride on her pink tricycle in the corridor outside their apartment.
Her story is heartbreaking, the result of a devastating birth that left her with severe disabilities and her desperate parents scrambling to give her the best possible care.
Now, with the demise of the Canadian penny, Mia’s mom and dad, Andrea Toth and Janos Somogyi, are asking people to donate them to Mia so the three-year-old North York girl can continue receiving physical therapy in Chile.
For more than two years, Mia received therapy, including physio, speech and feeding therapies, in Toronto at different hospitals and rehabilitation centres and in the family’s apartment in Flemingdon Park southeast of Eglinton Avenue and Don Mills Road.
Because physiotherapy is not covered by the government, the treatments were covered by a now-exhausted donation from President’s Choice Children’s Charity and by selling off family possessions.
While the therapy gave Mia some benefit, it was only after Toth took Mia to Chile last fall for five weeks that the little girl began to flourish, her parents said.
Mia was treated by physiotherapist Ramon Cuevas, who 40 years ago developed Cuevas Medek Exercise (CME), a treatment used to develop gross motor skills in babies and children at risk of delay through, for example, premature birth, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or brain injuries.
Mia had had CME treatment here but after just five weeks with Cuevas, her progress was remarkable, Toth said.
Before, she could sit if positioned perfectly but even the slightest imbalance would cause her to topple over.
Now, she can sit by herself, better move her arms and legs, roll over, chew and swallow small amounts of food although she still requires a feeding tube, and perform some other skills.
“He (Cuevas) is the master” in CME, Toth said.
“The second day I was there, I had a meltdown. I finally had hope. Up to then, I felt I was choking under water.”
Mia was born on Jan. 29, 2010. Andrea’s pregnancy had been normal but her delivery became a nightmare.
Mia didn’t get oxygen properly for the last 45 minutes of the birth.
“When Mia was born, she came out flat. She wasn’t crying, she wasn’t breathing,” said Toth, who required 16 litres of blood herself during a marathon surgery and was admitted to the intensive care unit.
“They said she would never make it to the next morning.”
Toth was even given a day-pass to visit Mia, who had been taken to a different hospital, because doctors were convinced her daughter would die.
When asked about the birth and the fact he nearly lost his wife and daughter, Janos Somogyi, who carries on the housecleaning service he and his wife started now that Toth cares for Mia full-time, can only wipe tears from his eyes and explain it’s too painful to talk about.
Mia has severe irreversible damage to many important parts of her brain, cerebral palsy, developmental and physical disabilities and requires a feeding tube.
When she was discharged from hospital, Mia’s parents were warned she would be in a vegetative state. But the little girl continues to defy the odds.
“She is a fighter. She is proving everyone wrong,” Toth said.
Despite her severe limitations, Mia understands English and her parents’ native Hungarian, beaming a smile when her mom says she’s a good girl or a visitor asks to be her friend.
“Everybody compliments her smile. She has a great smile. She’s very friendly,” Toth said.
“She’s such an angel. She’s such a good girl. She loves everybody. People who meet her say Mia has changed their life and their perspective.”
The trip to Chile costs $14,000, including $8,000 for the therapy and the rest for travel, accommodation and related expenses.
While Toth and Somogyi have no family in Canada to rely on, they raised the money last fall through donations, help from friends and a vacation allowance from an association for people with cerebral palsy.
Ideally, Toth would like to take Mia twice a year to visit Cuevas until she is able to walk, because critical development occurs in children before the age of seven.
“People say, ‘Why are you going literally to the other side of the world and it costs so much?’ but I’m a mother. I want to do the best for my child,” she said.
“She keeps showing us ‘I’m here, don’t give up on me.’”
Pennies can be dropped off at the lower level of Flemingdon Park Ministry at 10 Gateway Blvd. southeast of Eglinton and Don Mills, and at any Anglican Church in Toronto. Donations should be marked Attn: Flemingdon Park Ministry For Mia.
Donations can also be made at any BMO Bank of Montreal deposited to account number 0317-3991-379.
For people who can’t make donations due to health concerns, call Rev. Helena-Rose Houldcroft at 647-388-1841 to arrange for pick up.
For more information about Mia, CME therapy or to make an online donation, visit www.helpmia.com