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She fought the odds and touched lives

The Palm Harbor girl had her first transplant shortly after birth, then had a second at 6 months.

Published August 2, 2006

Meagan L. Craig, a Palm Harbor girl who was the first infant in the world to receive a double lung transplant because of a rare genetic disorder, died Monday (July 31, 2006) at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. She was 12.

Meagan later received a second lung transplant, contended with a variety of chronic health problems and had been in declining health for more than a year, said her grandfather, Richard L. Thomas of Palm Harbor.

Yet she had recently completed the fifth grade and was a lively, vibrant girl who enjoyed photography, fishing, crafts and caring for her pets.

"She was smart," Thomas said. "She was sharp on the computer. She sold $400 worth of bracelets to support lost pets after Hurricane Katrina."

Meagan had an aquarium of fish, an iguana, a hamster, her cat, Snowy, and her German shepherd, Logan.

"Logan's going to be lost without her," Thomas said, his voice catching. "But she's in a better place now."

The daughter of Mike and Diane Craig, Meagan was born Dec. 13, 1993, at Clearwater's Morton Plant Hospital with an extremely rare lung disorder known as surfactant protein-B deficiency.

Her condition was confirmed at Tampa General Hospital just hours after her birth. Since there was no treatment for the disease, the 8-pound infant was flown to St. Louis Children's Hospital, where she received her first lung transplant Feb. 21, 1994.

When she was barely 6 months old, Meagan contracted a severe bacterial infection that necessitated a second lung transplant.

Meagan was one of two infants from Pinellas County born weeks apart in 1993 with the same medical condition.

The other was Autumn Bailey of Pinellas Park, whose life paralleled Meagan's. They were the first two infants in the world to get lung transplants.

In the years that followed, the girls grew to be bright, active youngsters who became best friends, sharing secrets and support.

They attended school at Cross Bayou Elementary in Pinellas Park and learned sign language together, as both had lost most of their hearing due to medications they received as infants.

Lauri Bailey, Autumn's mother and a close, longtime friend of the Craig family, recalled Meagan as "very spirited."

"She had a sweet personality," Mrs. Bailey said. "The resemblances between the girls were uncanny."

Autumn died in 2003, nine days shy of her ninth birthday.

"Meagan touched a lot of people's lives," Mrs. Bailey said, starting to cry. "If it wasn't for her, it would have been twice as hard for me to deal with Autumn being gone."

Meagan returned to St. Louis Children's Hospital in November 2004 for treatment of bronchiolitis obliterans, a common late complication in lung transplant patients that destroys breathing tubes in the lungs.

A month later, she spent two weeks at All Children's Hospital, then returned home to Palm Harbor in late January 2005. Meagan's health began to decline and she began receiving daily dialysis, Thomas said.

Meagan is survived by her parents, Diane and Michael Craig of Palm Harbor, her paternal grandparents, Richard and Iris Thomas of Palm Harbor, and two great-grandmothers, Catherine Thomas of Palm Harbor and Anna Byers of Elizabeth, Pa.

A public gathering will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with funeral services beginning at 1 p.m. Thursday at Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home, 2853 Sunset Point Road, Clearwater. Memorials or contributions may be forwarded to the Meagan Craig Trust Fund, c/o Synovus Bank, 32845 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, FL 34684.

[Last modified August 1, 2006, 22:57:35]

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