Guatemalan Orphan Receives New Face to Face the World
by Whitney Williams Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2015
In the '90s, in a Guatemalan village riddled with gang violence, death, and trash, the soft, delicate face of a toddler named Gersi met the hard wrath of a cruel world.She was left unable to smile. The right side of her face bore the violent impact of blunt force trauma - her right eye was blinded, her nose was shattered, and the right side of her face was left paralyzed and sagging.When she was a teenager, Gersi and her sister were placed in the care of My Special Treasure orphanage, a ministry partner of Orphan Outreach, where she was tended to with love by both staff and the mission teams that regularly visited.And that brings us to today. Now, Gersi is in Dallas, Texas, recovering from a rare medical procedure that holds the promise of a smile—something she hasn’t been able to do for nearly two decades. She’s just undergone a major facial reanimation surgery, her third operation in the past year and a half—all made possible by generous DFW doctors and Orphan Outreach donors.“I had always imagined and prayed that Gersi was going to get the help she needed, but the doctors in Guatemala made it seem like it was impossible,” Carol, the director of My Special Treasure, said. “God has given Gersi a grand testimony that He is real and can change a person’s life.”And what a grand testimony it is.It was a simple conversation between the husband of Orphan Outreach Director of Marketing Tiffany Taylor Wines and an ENT doctor in the Dallas area that resulted in Gersi's special care.The doctor, Timothy Trone, was excited to hear about the work of Orphan Outreach, particularly in Guatemala—he had been leading medical missions teams to the country since the mid ’90s and had even helped build a hospital there. Recently he had been praying about how he could help orphans in Guatemala. Orphan Outreach set up a meeting with him shortly thereafter and told him about the girl who couldn’t smile.“So many people had been asking about how to help her, but we could never get an answer from the doctors in Guatemala,” said Orphan Outreach Director of Marketing Tiffany Taylor Wines. “Dr. Trone looked at her photo and gave us more answers than we had ever had. He committed to help that day.”The following summer, in August 2014, Dr. Trone enlisted his friend, Dr. Carlos Barcelo, to rebuild Gersi's nasal septum and cheekbone using part of her rib and he, in turn, asked his friend Dr.Corona to help remove Gersi’s damaged right eye. All of the doctors generously waived their fees, leaving the total cost for the surgery (including international travel for Gersi and Carol, anesthesia, the facility, and miscellaneous expenses) at $21,200—an amount that was fully funded within hours (many thanks to The World Orphan Fund, Children's HopeChest and Orphan Outreach donors).Her next surgery was done in November by Dr. Jorge Corona, who specializes in ocular plastics. Corona performed an eyelid lift for Gersi, but first enlisted his friend, Randy Trawnik, with whom he had traveled on medical mission trips, to create a prosthetic eye for Gersi. Each offered their services free of charge. Orphan Outreach donors paid for the travel expenses.Dr. Shai Rozen performed Gersi’s latest, and most serious, surgery, also pro-bono, this past February. Called a “facial reanimation,” he took muscle and nerve from her leg and placed them into her face, which should give her the ability to smile. Gersi is one of only 70 people to have ever received this breakthrough procedure.“I think I look happy,” said Gersi, looking in a mirror at one of the host homes through Orphan Outreach. And it’s evident she is, says Carol: “Now she has a voice and speaks up. She’s much more confident and is happy that she can do things that she previously would not or could not do.”Gersi will stay in Dallas until late March for follow-up visits, and will need to return, eventually, for a minor eye surgery. She will be a long-term patient of Rozen, needing to work with a physical therapist to fully restore her smile. In addition, a local orthodontist who often travels with us to Guatemala has offered to give Gersi free orthodontic work once she has fully recovered from her latest surgery.“I don’t have the words to describe my feelings about the love I’ve been shown by so many people … that God would give me such a wonderful gift,” said Gersi.“She feels she can now be part of society and she has dreams for a normal life,” said Carol.Those dreams include graduating from My Special Treasure’s transitional program, attending college, playing the guitar in a praise group, becoming an accountant, and traveling the world to tell others how wonderful God is."I want people to know that if God can change my life in such a huge way, he can change their lives too," Gersi concluded.The full results of the latest surgery will not be noticeable for several months, so please join us in prayer for Gersi's complete healing and for the benefits of the reanimation to be fully realized. While Dr. Rozen and the anesthesiologist donated their time for Gersi’s latest surgery, total expenses including her travel, two-day regular hospital stay, and one day in the ICU totaled $28,000. Orphan Outreach and Children's HopeChest have raised $18,000, but need help with the remaining $10,000 balance. Donate online now and indicate the gift is for Gersi's surgery in the comments.The doctors who have donated their services to help Gersi will be honored at the 2015 Children's Hope Dinner benefiting Orphan Outreach. The event will be held April 16 at the Hilton Anatole. Find more information and purchase tickets here.