Macey Collins has been through a lot in her 7 years of life, but she made a very grown-up decision a year ago. Now, she's making strides with some help from her parents.
"One night when I was spending the night at the hospital, my dad slept there with me," Collins told Fox 9 News. "I like my mom doing it better because she doesn't snore like him."
Collins talks about bravery, and she certainly made a decision that might have been agonizing for anyone else. For her, it took just a few minutes.
An early ultrasound shoed Macey had a club foot, but the X-ray taken before the surgery that could have saved the foot revealed she was also missing her fibula bone.
"When she was 4 or 5, they decided they would start doing lengthening on her leg," Melina Collins explained. "So, she went through some surgeries."
Those treatments were painful, and the medicine made Macey sick. Worse still, even though she had been in and out of the operating room 11 times, her foot never quite touched the ground.
"I could only walk on my tippy toes and that's not what I like," she said.
Then, the family hit another hurdle.
"The blood supply was not normal to her legs; the wounds were not healing," Dr. Lael Luedke explained. "At that point, it was clear it was the end of the road."
There were two options. The first involved more surgery and the promise of more pain, but there was no guarantee of good results. The second option was to lose the leg altogether.
"The easy part was just cut it off," Macey said. "I don't want it."
Macey's parents believe seeing the other children with prosthetic legs taught their young girl that she could still have an active life. When the leg was gone, there were no tears or mourning its loss. Instead, Macey just started to move on. Her first steps with her first prosthesis didn't look like it.
The Collins family has turned the physical therapy Macey has needed into a game for the girl who was not bashful about throwing herself back into life after her amputation.
"There was so much she wasn't able to do," Melina Collins admitted.
Although the decision to amputate wasn't hard, the consequences haven't always been easy to cope with. Yet, the toughest choice Macey has faced from her perspective was deciding what her more permanent prosthesis would look like.
"I remember when I had to pick from so many patterns," she said.
In the end, she chose the fabric that features her favorite animal -- owls. Becky Lynn Born, a certified prosthetist, then set out to making the girl's second leg.
"It's pretty common for new amputees to have a couple of different sockets in the first year because their legs change so much," Born said.
Yet, Macey found some people didn't transition into accepting her new leg as easily as she did. That's where Maureen Johnston comes in.
"Knowledge is power," Johnston said. "Once the kids have all the knowledge on what's happening and they understand why someone is the way they are, the teasing stops."
Johnston is the director of child life at Shriner's Hospital, and about a half a dozen times each ear, she goes to the school of a student who is feeling uncomfortable.
"Ever since I lost my leg, everyone at school started staring at me and asking me questions all at the same time," Macey recalled, admitting that it made her feel disturbed and "kind of annoyed."
Macey and Johnston put together a PowerPoint presentation to address the questions in one fell swoop, and the reception made an impression on Johnston.
"It was great. She has an awesome school. She was very involved in the wording of her presentation," Johnston said. "Macey stood up in front and answered all the questions she could. She's an awesome little girl who has taught everyone a lot."
That presentation emphasized all the things that Macey can do now that she couldn't before, and some of her older peers even congratulated her afterward.
Yet, the transition still has its obstacles. After her new leg was modeled, even the determined girl who tried it out couldn't hide the fact that it wasn't very fun.
"It doesn't feel good at all," Macey admitted. "It will take some getting used to -- and it hurts!"
Macey is persistent, and by the time the final version is perfected and polished, she'll have mastered the routine of slipping it on and getting on the go. Doctors believe there she has a lot to look forward to, and that's how she sees it to. In fact, she wants to give gymnastics a try.
NOTE: The song "Brave" by Sara Barielles has a special meaning to Macey -- and she got a shout-out from the singer after her mother sent out a picture Macey drew of herself on Twitter. In the picture, she described herself as brave, and Barielles retweeted it and added the comment: "I love this."