Life-changing surgeries

October 10, 2008 6:23:56 PM PDT
A Nigerian toddler who had severe facial deformities was ostracized in her small village until a Houston woman from the same area brought her here. The first of several life-changing surgeries on her began this week. Three-year-old Ebele was still in pain after an 18-hour surgery.

"It broke my heart to see a little girl with a deformed face," said Uche Baker, who does charity work in Nigeria.

Ebele's face was so deformed that you can see her brain bulging from her forehead. And that deformity caused the toddler and her mother, Chinwe, to be treated as outcasts in their Nigerian village.

"She prayed to God to make it possible for her child to have a normal life," said Uche.

Uche brought Ebele to Houston plastic surgeon Sean Boutros. Monday, he led a team of doctors at Memorial Hermann who moved her eyes closer, repaired her nose and put her brain back inside her forehead.

"It's like a miracle," said Uche. "It's a miracle."

Boutros also raised the money to pay her hospital bills.

"The hospital gives my foundation a discounted rate for these surgeries," said Dr. Boutros. "My foundation goes and raises money from private donors to pay for surgeries, not just like Ebele's, but for the smaller surgeries as well."

Remember Daniel Wachira, the boy who wanted an ear. Boutros made Daniel and ear, just right for sunglasses. And he's rebuilding his face in a series of surgeries after Daniel was mauled by wild dogs.

Giovanni's arm was severed by a train in Houston. Boutros reattached it.

Why take these difficult cases when patients can't pay and Boutros must also pick up the costs?

"My goal is that any child who comes to me here who has no access to care, I'll take care of them," said Boutros.

It's his mission -- helping children with severe deformities and teaching surgeons in third world countries the latest techniques.

"By making small changes in peoples' lives, those people can in turn make changes in other people's lives and eventually big changes occur," said Boutros.

It's a mission perhaps that crystallized in New York, where he was doing his residency training on 9-11.

"These rooms were filled with people working, working, working non-stop," he said.

Today, the mission is on the Ebeles of the world and using medicine to rewrite their future.

Uche, who sponsors Ebele, helps people in Nigeria, where she was born. It's part of her promise to God. When Uche survived cancer 11 years ago, she promised to help her people, much like Dr. Boutros' mission.

For information on the foundation that funds surgeries for these children, click here.

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