Remembering Elijah Miller

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 8:29 AM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - 16-year-old Elijah Miller will be laid to rest today, Jan. 25, after passing away while on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Elijah’s story is one that’s close to the heart of the 7News crew, as we followed his story and brave fight for survival since he was just a toddler. There are, after all, some stories that will stay with a reporter for a lifetime, and Elijah Miller is one of those.

We first met Elijah in 2007. His mother Michelle was desperate for help after baby Elijah had been passed over for a multi-organ transplant because his family couldn’t afford the trip to Georgetown Medical Center in Washington D.C.

“I can’t find a way. I tried calling all of the airports and everything and they said they couldn’t do it.”

After Elijah’s story aired, the community sprang into action.

“I felt bad that they didn’t have the money to go for the transplant so I decided to do a lemonade stand,” said Michael Jeffcoat. “For the first hour we couldn’t even sit down we were so busy and we raised $500 in the first hour.”

All that money was raised just to make sure the next time a call came, Elijah would be ready.

Kay Barnett with the Christus Foundation said, “And the community just kept coming by and giving us money and we ended up with over $10,000 for transportation.”

Then, about a month later, the phone rang again.

“So, we worked with Acadian Ambulance because we knew he couldn’t fly commercially because we had a time frame within six hours he had to be in Washington D.C.” said Barnett.

Mechelle Miller’s prayers were answered shortly after. After a 7-hour surgery, her baby boy got another chance at life, thanks in large part to the kindness and prayers of the community.

Mechelle recalled, “He just knew everyone was pulling for him and he wasn’t giving up.”

But 10 years later, doctors noticed a rapid decrease in Elijah’s kidney function. Last Year, we spoke with the family again. And once more, Mechelle was desperate for help.

“One day I was just like, you know I’m going to be loud. I went and bought some paint pens and I’ve been painting on my truck,” said Mechelle who refused to give up the fight to save Elijah’s life. “Sitting and waiting for a deceased kidney it would be three to four to five years.”

Sadly, that was time that Elijah wouldn’t have. Elijah passed away on Saturday, Jan. 21. He was described by his family as their brave warrior, who loved video games, legos, cartoons, and sunflowers. But for this reporter, he’ll always be remembered as the toddler with a huge smile and a beautiful heart who laughed without fear, despite the challenges life would bring.

Visitation for Elijah begins at 10 a.m. this morning at Johnson & Brown Funeral Home on Hwy 90 East in Iowa. The funeral service is set to begin at 1 p.m.

Across the U.S., over 100,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list. Over 1,600 of those are Louisiana residents.

Last year, Louisiana became the 27th state to put protections in place for living organ doners, to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against them.

In 2021, 370 Louisiana residents would receive a life-saving transplant while 87 died waiting for a kidney.