Miranda Garcia loves to laugh and play as much as any 9-year-old. But her life comes with some extra challenges.
"When she was born, we noticed that she had a bump on her head and that she couldn't swallow," said Iliana Soto, Miranda's mother.
When she was five days old, Miranda was diagnosed with a rare disorder called vascular lymphatic malformation, in which excess fluid builds up in her tissue and vessels.
Miranda suffers from seizures, vision problems and headaches. She can only eat soft food and spends a lot of time at the hospital for treatment.
"It's hard for me, and it's hard for me to understand what I'm going through," said Miranda.
"But once, about three years ago, I noticed that when she was getting poked, when she was going to get an MRI, she didn't cry anymore, she was laughing, and that's when I started noticing that we were blessed, because there are other children too that have bigger problems," said Iliana.
It's that spirit that moved Miranda's fourth-grade teacher, Heather Duval.
"It's made me think twice before I complain about anything," said Duval. "She just taught us all so much about strength and bravery and being courageous, and just persevering when things were hard."
A doctor in New York City is helping Miranda, already operating on her for free.
Miranda's family needed help with travel expenses and hospital fees for that trip, and Duval started a fundraiser at Poinsettia Elementary School that brought in nearly $6,000.
"I had kids coming in just bringing their piggy banks in and giving me all the pennies they had, and we had families writing checks," said Duval.
"It's hard when you have to go all the way far to New York, and hard to get money to go over there," said Miranda.
But Miranda's growth is getting worse, growing on her brain and threatening to take her eye. She needs to go back to New York for treatment, and this time she needs to stay for two years.
And though Miranda smiles through the physical pain, sometimes it's the emotional pain for a 9-year-old girl leaving her brother, sister and friends behind is hard to take.
"I feel sad when I have to leave," said Miranda.
While Miranda's doctor is again operating for free, her family still has to pay hospital fees and living expenses while in New York.
You can help out the family with donations specified to Miranda Garcia at WanerKids.org, or you can donate directly to the family through the Bank of America account # 214 350 3649.