COLES COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) – One year after 11-year-old Ma’Liyah White was rescued from a frozen pond, her family is celebrating her extraordinary recovery.

“Her lifeless body, honestly… just being there… you don’t know what’s going to happen,” White’s great-aunt Amanda Beals recalled. “You pray. We had the whole nation praying.”

The Coles County family’s prayers for Ma’Liyah were answered. But, it’s a bittersweet anniversary. They’re still mourning White’s grandfather who died trying to save her.

“To see a child having the tubes in them, and seeing the pond water being suctioned from her lungs…” It’s a painful memory. “She [was] in critical condition. And to have Carlos in the other room gone… it’s not just one tragedy, it’s two tragedies,” Beals said.

It’s also a reminder of how far this family has come since last January. Particularly, the day then-10-year-old White chased her dogs onto a frozen pond. She spent 30 minutes trapped underwater as one of her grandfathers, Carlos Serafin, sacrificed his life for hers.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve had time to even grieve,” Bill Croy said.

That’s because Croy, White’s other grandfather and primary caretaker, suddenly became a single parent of two young girls – one who was fighting to survive.

“I miss him terribly but I have these two that I have to take care of every single day,” Croy said.

A lot has changed since then.

“It’s not like it was before,” Beals said. “She wishes she could just get up out of the wheelchair and take off and go run after the cute boys and stuff.”

Ma’Liyah’s family said her mind is still sharp.

“She just made honor roll in school, which is amazing,” Beals said as she gave White a high-five.

But, she finds it harder to talk and control her body.

“It’s almost like a volcano – it builds and builds and builds, and then she has the seizure, and it relaxes her body,” Croy said.

She uses a special toothbrush and weighted silverware to help when her body shakes. Croy helps dress her, feed her and carry her through all her new obstacles.

“Gosh, I said: ‘it would be nice if you could just do this all by yourself. Then you wouldn’t have to worry.’ I said: ‘I know you don’t like Papa coming in here and having to do all this for you,’ and she’s like, ‘yeah,'” Croy said, between laughs with his granddaughter.

Croy said laughter is what gets them through their toughest moments, and each other.

“I’m amazed at what he does every day,” Beals said about her brother.

Strongest of all is the girl still growing up – facing new challenges every day – but grinning through it all.

“Thank you for all your support,” White said.