Most of us love a good surprise. And Nia Norde of Gwinnett County got one Tuesday. The Lawrenceville 10-year old has been in Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston since November 22, 2013. That's when her heart abruptly – and mysteriously – failed.
She's been in and out of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Right now, she's on the Cardiac Step-Down floor, where the staff decided Nia needed a little fun in her life.
The first thing you notice about Nia is that she's got the energy of ten fifth-graders. She rarely slows down.
On the quiet unit, Nia Norde is singing, "Shine bright like a diamond, shine bright like a diamond!" She's always singing, and dancing, and beating everybody who comes into her hospital room at the card game Uno.
But, as positive and energetic as she seems, Nia has been dealt some tough cards lately.
Just before Thanksgiving, she got sick. A chest x-ray showed her heart is 60% too large. More test showed it's only functioning at 20% capacity. One day, Nia was in school, the next she was being airlifted here to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
She's been for three months now, waiting for a heart transplant.
Her grandmother, Venecia Cannon, says, "It's just been very sad, Nia has gone through a lot. She's had open heart surgery, already, where they put the Berlin (heart pump) in place to help pump her heart, so that she can function the way she is now."
That pump – stationed like a small file cabinet beside her bed - is both a lifeline and tether, because Nia rarely gets out of her room. She explains, "It's helping my heart pump, my heart beat," saying her heart, "is sick."
Her grandmother – smiles watching Nia place Uno with her favorite child life specialist. She says, "As strong as you see her now, she has had some moments where it was pretty bleak."
But today's a good day. Nia's feeling, "Pretty, beautiful, stylish!"
And she knows she's about to get a surprise. The door to her hospital room opens and in walks Carly Mathis, the 2013 Miss Georgia, wearing her tiara. Instantly, the two click. Carly sang in the Miss America pageant. But, it's clear this is the Nia show.
She tells Mathis, "I love to sing, I love to dance, " waving her arms in the air.
Mathis smiles, "She is a ball of energy unlike anything I have seen before. But she is absolutely adorable."
She helps Nia put on a little tiara, saying, "I have to call her Queen Nia now, once she put that crown on her head. There was nothing else but Queen Nia!"
And this whole surprise thing is just getting started. Erik and Tracey Pearson of Soda Salon stroll in, fresh from styling models at Fashion Week in New York City. The Pearsons like to volunteer, treating kids at Children's to free beauty treatments. They tell Nia they've come to give her a makeover. Nia is beaming. Everybody is smiling.
After a lot of maneuvering to get Nia's Berlin pump into the bathroom, and make sure her bandages don't get wet, they give her hair a deep washing and conditioning. It's the first time she's had her hair cleaned like this since she got sick months ago.
Then, they tackle her thick curls. One blows her hair dry, the other straightens it with a hair iron. She has so much hair, the process takes almost two hours. But Nia is smiling the whole time, whispering, "I cannot wait to see it!"
When they finally hold a mirror in front of her, Nia flips her now pin-straight long hair around. She loves it. Her grandmother and mother and father cheer her on. It's a perfect end to a perfect day. Nia Norde – like her favorite song – shines bright like a diamond.
You can read more about Nia Norde's story on her medical fundraising page, http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/a-heart-for-nia/114844