East End Baby to be Remembered with Floragraph in 2014 Rose Parade

Eli Mcginley Walker McGinley, 4, puts finishing touches on Eli’s floragraph. Eli’s image is one of 81 to be featured in the 2014 Rose Donate Life Rose Parade Float on Jan. 1, 2014.

Ellie McGinley Jodie McGinley with her 2-year-old daughter Ellie work to complete Eli’s floragraph.

Dec. 13, 2013 | When the McGinley family watches the annual Tournament of Roses Parade this New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif., they will be thinking of their newborn baby whose portrait is featured on a float in memory of organ donors.

“We call these opportunities Eli’s ballgames,” Jodie McGinley told friends, family and supporters during a floragraph finishing event Dec. 11 at UAMS. “Because while other parents get those opportunities to take their children’s school pictures and watch their baseball games, we get to see our son featured on a national float.”

Elijah “Eli” McGinley’s portrait, created with floral materials, will be featured on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float along with 80 other donor portraits in the world-renowned parade. The McGinley family and supporters put the finishing touches on Eli’s image at the UAMS event. The Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA) says he is the third Arkansan ever to be featured in the parade.

“It’s a special day for us,” said Roxane Townsend, CEO of the UAMS Medical Center. She looks forward to attending the parade, as well. Townsend spoke of the family’s selfless decision to help other babies through organ donation. “We are honored that you allowed us to participate in your family’s care,” she said.

Eli and his twin brother, Walker, were born Aug. 3, 2009, at UAMS. Jodie and Jesse McGinley, of East End, were told during their 20-week ultrasound that Eli had spina bifida, a neural tube defect that causes paralysis of the lower extremities, and hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain).

When the babies arrived, Eli was taken to Arkansas Children’s Hospital. His condition was more severe than initially thought. His prognosis was grim. Jesse and Jodie decided to take Eli off life support the night of Aug. 6.

In an effort to bring comfort to the grieving family, UAMS doctors offered to bring Eli back to UAMS to spend his last moments with his twin brother and parents. Jodie wrote in her blog they did not expect their baby boy to live past a few minutes after taking him off life support. “We finally felt on Friday morning that Eli was still holding on to something and couldn't let go. So we decided to have Eli transported back to UAMS to be with Walker,” she wrote.

Eli died Aug. 8 – 31 hours after he was taken off life support. Jesse and Jodie say they are grateful for those final moments together as a whole family. And they are at peace because other babies will live through Eli’s donation. Last week, the family learned Eli’s aortic heart valve was placed in a 2-day-old girl in Maine.

 “We pray for that family. We’re happy for them and we have peace,” Jodie said. She calls Eli a hero. She and Jesse are raising Walker to know his twin brother in everything they do and to know the importance of organ and tissue donation.

“It’s critical,” Jodie said. “There’s a great need. There are thousands of people dying because they’re in need of tissue or organ donation.”

Wednesday, Walker was eager to help finish his brother’s portrait for the float. With a paint brush, and a dab of glue, the 4-year-old applied blue floral material to the outer edges of the picture.

Walker’s 2-year-old sister, also helped. Sitting on her mother’s lap and holding a pink paintbrush, she filled in empty space along the edge. Her parents call her a miracle.

Jodie found out she was pregnant on the one-year anniversary of Eli’s passing.  She was born in April 2011. Jesse and Jodie named the baby girl Ellie – after her big, heroic brother Eli.

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