Tatianna is an 8-year-old little girl who was born with a horrible birth defect. Although she is from a remote village in South America, like any other little girl, she wants to feel pretty and be like the rest of the kids. Every child has the same need to fit in and have friends to play with at home and school. Her mother described Tatianna’s life as being sadly reclusive, refusing to attend school because she felt too embarrassed and rarely leaving the house.
Spending an excruciating amount of time shut indoors, she listened to the radio, which is how her life began to take a dramatic turn. When she heard the announcement on the radio that Team 5 Foundation was coming to the Hospital Amazonia in Pucallpa and would operate on children from the jungle she told her mother that something inside of her told her that she should go to the hospital. The whisper from within compelled Tatianna to go to extraordinary lengths to begin her brave journey. They caught a boat, and traveled three and a half hours through the jungle, down the river, to the hospital, not knowing what to expect.
Tatianna arrived at the hospital on Saturday, the same day that the team arrived. All of the patients had been preselected through months of intensive planning, and although she seemed to have shown up too late, she was right on time. The hospital director pulled me aside and asked me to talk with her mom. Her mother told me that her daughter had “come alive” when she heard the radio.
I examined the little girl, and I spoke to her. Perhaps it was her tenacity and determination to find us, or maybe the same voice that she had heard was also speaking to me, but she completely stole my heart. We planned the surgery. Tatianna had a severe transverse cleft with a horribly disfigured ear that was
split in two. I explained to her that I would do the surgery, but she would have to go to school. We sealed the deal with a child’s handshake – better known to all eight-year-olds as a “pinky promise,” and I operated on her the next day.
The surgery went well, and I checked on her every evening. Tonight she was “doing school work,” to get ready to return to her school.
Tatianna has been a tremendous inspiration to me and the entire team. Love, hope, and joy show up in many ways, and on that day in August, it came to me in the form of an 8-year-old little girl with big brown eyes. Her mom reported to me that Tatianna is attending school, as promised, and that she wants to work with children who are born different.
I believe that she will share her gifts of hope and courage with little ones who will one day walk the path that she has. I will return in 6 months to check on her. Please pray for Tatianna and her mother.
We also wish to extend many thanks to the Peruvian Navy who graciously provided the anesthesia and nurses, as well as river travel and security. Thank you to all of the dedicated people who helped make this incredible journey possible, and bringing a smile back to this sweet girl’s face.