Myocarditis Takes the Life of the Little Girl with the Biggest Heart in the School

Melisa Sofia’s Memory Lives On

Copy consolidated from article published Aug. 14, 2011
Jay Levin, Staff Writer, The Bergen Record, New Milford, NJ

Melisa Sofia loved snatching paper out of the computer printer and drawing pictures of her family. She strummed a hot-pink guitar. She sang Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb,” then gave up Miley for Justin Bieber.

She begged to have her nails painted and have “Good Night Moon” read to her. She rebelled against the jeans her mom wanted her to wear. Melisa was to begin practicing to be a cheerleader for the Mighty Mites football team.

“She was the sweetest, most pure-hearted child,” Melisa’s dad, Robert Sofia said.

The seemingly healthy 6 1/2-year-old died in her sleep the morning of June 23, 2011, less than 48 hours after her last day of kindergarten. The medical examiner found the cause to be a disease her parents had never heard of: myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle. Melisa’s death left many thunderstruck. Melisa Sofia was born Nov. 12, 2004, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Melisa was six months old when the family left the Bronx for a tidy expanded Cape on a northern New Jersey cul-de-sac.

It was on the cul-de-sac where she learned to ride a bike and played with her friends and brother Robert. They shared a bunk — Melisa and her collection of stuffed animals on the bottom, little Robert on the top. Robert Sofia, Melisa’s father shared this story, “A man came up to me, in the long procession at the funeral and bowed to me. I’ve come here to tell you that Melisa would always play with my daughter and protect her from the kids who were making fun of her. And that his daughter said Melisa had the biggest heart in the school.”

After that heart gave out, Melisa’s mother wondered whether the family should keep the house. After all, it was upstairs in the pink-walled bedroom where her mother found Melisa lifeless on that blur of a morning in June. It was downstairs, on the entryway’s granite floor, where police officers frantically tried to revive Melisa. They thought the better of leaving. This is where her memory lives on.

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