The struggle for survival started in the womb.
Lillian Bay Beatty was diagnosed with cystic hygroma - a disease that causes swelling on the throat, mouth, and tongue - before she was born Nov. 11, 2009.
More than 20 surgeries and more than $4 million in medical bills later, often needing a trachea and feeding tube to survive, little Lillian Bay forges on near her third birthday.
Lillian Bay Beatty
She is beating the odds after 90 percent of the cystic hygroma was surgically removed.
Although medical costs overwhelmed private insurance coverage, Lillian Bay's parents refused to give up on her.
Her father, Brad Beatty, United Parcel Service driver serving Boca Grande, commutes from his North Port home. He spent weekdays delivering packages and raising money for the endless medical bills and made daily trips to St. Petersburg to be with his daughter, the last child born at the old All Children's Hospital building.
"Residents of Boca Grande are some of the most powerful and influential people in the world, including CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, former U.S. presidents, world-class athletes, musicians, authors and entertainers," Beatty said. "The residents on Boca Grande came to Lillian's rescue and raised money needed for medical expenses, along with sending her to the best medical facilities in the world."
Boca Grande residents have held several successful fundraisers for the Lillian Bay Medical Fund but expenses continue to mount.
Cystic hygroma patients need specialized clinics, detailed studies, counseling, and money for medical costs and out-of-pocket expenses.
Her improved health is priceless, her father said. Now breathing and eating on her own, she is quite the gifted painter, her father said.
"Her story is being told around the world, encouraging other children who are struggling with a disease that they can beat the odds with hope, love and faith," Beatty said. "Lillian is living proof."
Two books written by Ron Knight and published by Brand Eleven Eleven tell the story of Lillian Bay. The adult version is "Saving Lillian Bay" along with an inspirational children's version, "Miracles Happen: The Saving Lillian Bay Story." Go to savinglillianbay.com.