Child abandoned in third-world country gets treatment thanks to Texas hospital

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston is home to some of the highest ranking hospitals in the world. People from all around come in for the renowned expert care and treatment they find in the Texas Medical Center.

There are countless stories of survival and hope from within those five square miles.

This one shares the willpower and determination of a girl who came about six months ago for life-altering treatments.

Elvina Kolevi is a 6-year-old from Papua, New Guinea who received the opportunity of a lifetime. Toys and crayons are a new love for the youngster who is trying to adjust to her new life, that might have seemed impossible not that long ago.

Elvina was burned by an open flame at age two. The accident left her badly scarred and caused her parents to leave her.

However, during a trip to her village, a missionary found Elvina, located her parents, and with their permission brought her to Houston for help.

"You cannot ignore the pain," missionary Cletus Dillman with the Seventh Day Adventist Church said. "Especially in a place like Papua. It's very remote. No doctors."

We were there when she arrived in July.

Shy, overwhelmed and unable to chew solid food. It was the first time she's ever left the village that she'd lived since birth.

The woman who initially housed her and helped connect her with doctors is Hashmat Effendi. She runs House of Charity and has helped more than 200 children get medical care for free.

"She was an abandoned child," Effendi said. "She lived in an orphanage."

Elvina has undergone two surgeries and intensive rehabilitation. In September, she had a celebration for her sixth birthday.

"We are the answer to her prayers," Effendi said. "She's never had a birthday party. She doesn't even know what birthday parties are."

They practiced singing and blowing out pretend candles. The party was at Texas Children's Hospital with the people in charge of her healing process.

"Elvina is an angel. She is remarkably resilient," plastic surgeon Dr. Edward Reece said. "After sustaining a fire injury to her neck, she was so scarred down that she couldn't move her neck up at all. Now, she can completely extend her neck which is fantastic! We were able to reconstruct some of her lip as well."

"We were able to use what's called a free flap or free tissue transfer," added resident Dr. Faryan Jalalabadi. "It's kind of like a transplant, however, it's using your own tissue."

Texas Children's provided the care and the surgery for free, but the medical care is only part of the healing process. For much of her stay, Elvina lived with House Of Charity volunteer Gabriela Nomura and her family.

"We love her," Nomura said. "She's completely changed my life. I understand what it is to have a sibling and I understand how privileged I am in life. "

Six months after her arrival, Elvina packed up to return to New Guinea.

Her visa expired and she was unable to renew it without first returning home.

She is currently going to school on a scholarship until she returns to America for another surgery.

Also, she's looking forward to more chances to color with her crayons, playing with new toys. And as only she can, to remind others of what's truly important.

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