Improvise, adapt, and overcome. This is the motto the Soniats have lived by ever since now eight-year-old Megan was born. Megan came into this world “like a wrecking ball,” as she and her parents joke, with a congenital heart defect, spinal defects, a club foot, a polydactyl toe, hypoplasia, and congenital hip dysplasia, which means she was born with a missing hip socket.
Gretchen Soniat, Megan’s mother, shares that there is no explanation for why Megan was born this way. “She won the genetic lottery,” she adds. “She does have a chromosomal deletion that could be the reason, but there is no name. I can’t put a label on it—it’s just Megan.”
Although Megan has had multiple surgeries, her resilient and positive personality keep her dreaming big and never giving up. Gretchen shares that when Megan finished hip surgery and was in a full body cast, she taught herself to flip over and army crawl through the house. Her mom wasn’t surprised to find her daughter crawling across the kitchen floor, because Megan has been dancing to the beat of her own drum since day one.
“When she went into heart failure as a baby, they needed to put an IV in her, and they couldn’t get it in anywhere except her forehead,” says Gretchen. “She screamed the whole way as they transported her to another hospital. When she got there, she reached up, ripped out the IV, and smiled.”
Megan’s classmates, family, and friends have always provided a loving support system for her, especially since she often has to miss school for surgeries. Gretchen recalls Megan meeting her kindergarten class through video, because she had just finished major hip reconstruction. The kids all wanted to sign her cast, and everyone was encouraging when she arrived with a walker.
Gretchen has taught Megan to never be ashamed of her scars, because her scars make her unique and help tell her story. “I tell her to show them off and be proud because without them, you wouldn’t be here. You don’t cover them up because they are a badge of honor,” Gretchen shares.
Megan teaches everyone around her to love more and judge less because she leads by example. With a heart of gold and the need to take others under her wing, Megan always shows people how to be inclusive and caring.
“No one is born perfect, and that’s what I tell her,” says Gretchen. “You can’t judge a book by its cover, so you have to get to know people and take care of them.”
And, Megan has taught people a lot more than just to care. She has become an inspiration to those around her, and Gretchen believes Megan’s purpose in life is to inspire others through her journey.
“People see what she has gone through and realize that this little girl has gone through more than what several people will go through in a lifetime,” says Gretchen. “It puts things in perspective.”
Megan is such an incredible role model that even the Marines have noticed. She will be named an honorary Marine at school this year to recognize what she has gone through and her strength throughout her surgeries and countless doctor visits.
Megan’s parents and brothers watch from the sideline, cheering her on as she shows everyone around her the true meaning of living life to the fullest.
“There’s a plan for her, and I can’t wait to see what she does in life,” Gretchen says. “She has taught us to never give up, and I have learned a lot about trusting, letting go, and having faith.” ■