PORTLAND, Mich. (WLNS) — Holly Linn’s life has been tough.
The father of her two children was abusive and was later sent to prison. Her youngest child was born at just 27-weeks — an ordeal that nearly cost the life of mother and baby.
Mental health issues followed and she was forced to put her children into the foster care system. Her mother, Julie McNeilly, spent more than 30 months filing paperwork and handling the legal system; she was just days away from legally adopting her grandchildren, AJ, 11, and Olivia, five.
The family took a trip to the happiest place on earth to celebrate the soon-to-be-finalized adoption, but what they didn’t know is, it would be their last.
“If grandma wasn’t at work, she would have the kids,” said Megan Linn, McNeilly’s other daughter and the current guardian of AJ and Olivia. “Even if she was at work, she would take the kids with her. She didn’t ever like to be without them even before she had custody of them.”
McNeilly worked in human resources at Michigan State University for more than 30 years, but her daughters say that her real life’s work was caring for her grandchildren.
“She spent all of her time with our foster care workers and adoption workers trying to get that final to give the kids some permanency,” Megan said.
The writing was on the wall, the paperwork all but done. So, grandma did what grandma’s do — spoiled her babies.
“In early December of this year, me and my mom took the two kids to Disney World as a celebration for the adoption,” Megan said. “Unfortunately, that’s where we got sick.”
McNeilly was checked into Sparrow hospital on Dec. 20th. It’s where she spent Christmas alone and where she died on New Years Day. The second she got to the hospital, her daughters say, she was filled with regret.
“She changed her mind quick about it,” Holly said. “The day she went in she was like ‘can I get vaccinated right now?’, but it was too late.”
That was enough for Holly, previously unvaccinated, to change her mind.
“I was not so much for getting vaccinated until I saw the difference between how sick my mom was and then how sick (Megan) was,” Holly said.
Days later, Holly received her first dose. Now, the Linn’s hope their heartache can be a lesson for others who are unsure about the vaccine.
“We don’t want to go through this again with anybody in our family, or anybody,” Holly said.
“We have aunts and uncles who just don’t want to (get the shot),” Megan said. “And it’s just like, ‘do you see what just happened?'”
Born and raised in Portland, that’s where Megan says she will raise the children so they can keep their stability, adding that the support from the community has been indescribable.
Support that she’s seen through a GoFundMe, which originally started with a goal of $1,000 but as of Wednesday afternoon, had climbed to more than $10,700.
“When I first started it, even if someone donated five dollars every time I was literally bawling, I couldn’t contain myself,” Megan said. “People donated 100, 200, 500 dollars, people we don’t even know.
“It’s overwhelming in the best way possible.”
The Linn’s also extend their thanks to the nurse, Tricia M. who works as an RN in Sparrow Lansing’s 7 West unit for never leaving their mother’s side.
If you would like to donate to the GoFundMe, you can do so here: