Shanna McDonnell has a lot to celebrate.
The 18-year-old Corinth resident celebrated a half-year birthday in downtown Corinth on Wednesday surrounded by loving family.
Shanna’s brothers – Austin, Dylan and Jaidan – made the 13-hour drive to Corinth along with Jaidan’s fiancee, Maddy Petit, and their grandmother, Jill Kohrs.
“We’ve always had this closeness,” said Dylan McDonnell. “We’ve had stuff we’ve bonded over. We had a normal childhood. We played our sports. We played outside. We played video games.”
The birthday party was the idea of volunteers with Magnolia Hospice.
“We wanted to do it early to make sure she had a chance to celebrate,” said Magnolia Hospice volunteer recruiter Lila Wade. “Social worker Jenny Lovelace had the idea to have the party early. We had different people go out and get donations.”
The party was a complete surprise for Shanna.
“Through and through, we had to give her brothers the surprise of coming down a day early,” said her father, Jeremy McDonnell. “They were going to sleep in a hotel, but health wise, you just never know. She is a very loving kid. Or woman, I guess you could say. She is happy to see people. Her disability doesn’t allow her to understand fully what is going on.”
Shanna McDonnell had the party planned for July.
“We loved (the party),” said Melissa McDonnell. “We didn’t quite know what to expect. Shanna has been talking about her next birthday. She is a Google person. She googles everything. She was talking about going to the candy store in Memphis because she read it was the biggest one. She loves crafts. She loves Marcos pizza. They took all her ideas and made it into a party for her.”
Shanna McDonnell was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome, a disorder that affects the hypothalamus gland in the brain, which prevents from feeling full, even after eating. It also weakens the muscle tone.
The disorder develops around the time of conception. There is no known cause or cure.
“We were told when she was four days old that she would not make it through the night,” said her mother, Melissa McDonnell. “She was very dehydrated at that point, just a lot going on with her. She had a feeding tube and gastric tube because they don’t have the muscle tone to drink from a bottle. You fight and fight to help them gain weight. Then you have to fight to help them lose weight.”
Shanna McDonnell went to public school until the second grade.
“Then, for personal reasons, I homeschooled her and her brothers,” said Melissa McDonnell. “It was an online school. In the public school, we felt like they were dumbing her down. In the online school, she went in at the second grade level.”
She graduated high school early in January 2022, the same month she and her parents moved from Minnesota to Corinth.
Shanna McDonnell grew sick in November and doctors told her family she had two weeks to two months to live.
“She has passed that, too,” said her mother. “We know it’s all in God’s hands. We learned a long time ago to just take it one day at a time.”
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