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Parents Say Daughter's Recovery Was Christmas Miracle

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A completely healthy four-year old girl had to fight for her life in an intensive care unit after catching the flu.

"I really thought it was the end. I thought she wasn't going to make it," said Gemma Botelho's father Alex.

On Sunday, Gemma had a slight fever. The following day she felt better and even danced in her school's Christmas pageant. But three days later, things took a turn for the worse.

"She was pale, cold hands, cold feet," said Alex Botelho.

"You could see it the way she spoke to us. How she was trying to say something was wrong. She never spoke with me in that tone before, like asking for help," said Gemma's mother Lejla Szabo.

Gemma's parents took her to Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami-Dade just in the nick of time. When she arrived she went into cardiac arrest.

Doctors performed CPR on Gemma for 45 minutes.

Botelho said the doctors told them to appreciate the four and a half years they had with her.

When they couldn't get her heart working again, Gemma's doctors put her on life support and had her airlifted her to a transplant center in St. Petersburg to await a new heart.

Gemma's parents said there was no activity in her heart on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Sunday before Christmas, they asked friends around the world to say prayers for her. That's when Botelho and Szabo say they got their Christmas miracle.

"Sunday night they told us she had a mild pulse, she started to bounce back on Sunday," said Szabo.

"Sometimes we don't understand everything that happens in medicine," said Dr. Jeffrey Jacobs with All Children's Hospital. "I think she's going to make a great recovery.  A month from now this is going to be a little bump in the road and she should be back to doing the things she's always done."

No one was able to explain why some healthy children, like Gemma, get so desperately ill from the flu.

Her parents, who never considered the flu season a serious threat, have since changed their minds. They now urge all parents to get their children vaccinated. As for Gemma, she said when she grows up - she wants to be a doctor so she can help people like the doctors and nurses helped her.

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