San Antonio doctors save Haitian girl

2-year-old gets lifesaving brain surgery for free

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A little girl from Haiti has a new lease on life after getting a lifesaving surgery in San Antonio this week.

The 2-year-old girl named Ivela was living in an a Port-au-Prince orphanage where her twin sister had already died from a fever.

The Haitian girl was suffering from a buildup of fluid in her brain called hydrocephalus. The condition had stolen the child's eyesight and left her unable to speak.

Without surgery, the condition can cause severe brain damage and death.

Missouri resident Deborah Hamilton said her daughter Hannah met Ivela last year while doing volunteer work in the orphanage. She knew immediately that the young girl needed help.

San Antonian Whitney McClain, who works for a local neurosurgeon, was also in Haiti doing missionary work when she met Ivela and Hannah. 

McClain started making calls and eventually convinced Dr. David Jimenez to perform the surgery. 

Jimenez is the only board-certified pediatric neurosurgeon in San Antonio. He agreed to perform the surgery for free with the blessing of Baptist Health System.

"The hospital donated the time, we the surgeons donated it and the university gave all the equipment, so it worked out great," Jimenez said.

On Monday, he performed brain surgery on Ivela at North Central Baptist Hospital to remove the fluid from her brain, giving the girl a second chance at life.

"I have the expertise of going in through a little tiny hole, going in with special endoscopes and going inside the brain and creating an operation that negates the need for a permanent shunt and now the baby won't need to have anything done the rest of her life," Jimenez said. "She's going to do great, I think. She has a good outlook on life."

While it is too soon to know how much the surgery will improve the girl's life, Hamilton remains optimistic.

"We're hoping that as she gets a little better and heals, she'll have some more coordinated movements with her legs and arms and hopefully do more things a 2-year-old should," Hamilton said. "She seems to be progressing very well."

Hamilton, who sits on the board of a Haitian orphanage, said after taking one trip to the struggling nation that is still recovering from a devastating earthquake that destroyed much of the country three years ago, she was moved to help the children of Haiti.

"A trip to Haiti will show you how desperate the situation is down there and how much they want it to be better, and so when people are really trying to take care of these little children and do a better job, you just want to help them," Hamilton said.

The procedure performed by Jimenez could not have been done in Haiti and living with disabilities in a third world nation can be a challenge. 

Hamilton said she is forever grateful to the doctors, staff members and the hospital for donating their time and services to help save one little life.

"I've been a little overwhelmed about how all this came together," Hamilton said. "Sometimes, if it's supposed to be, though, it will happen."

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