Last year, a local clinic approached Hands & Feet Project about a young girl named Wildaline. While serving her, the clinic found a growth forming on her left cheek. Because of this alarming discovery, she would need extensive medical care in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Unwilling to shoulder the cost and responsibility for Wildaline’s care, her guardians abandoned her to IBESR (Haitian Social Services).
IBESR officially placed Wildaline into the care of Hands & Feet Project, and she became fast friends with the other girls at our Children’s Village in Grand Goâve. Now, it was a race against time to get her the life-saving medical care she desperately needed. In order to further her care, we needed a biopsy to determine whether the growth was malignant or benign. The ongoing unrest and gang violence in Port-au-Prince made obtaining the biopsy an exacting task. Although the biopsy could be performed in Haiti, it had to be sent out of the country for results.
While waiting for biopsy results, Hands & Feet Project secured Wildaline a Haitian passport. Seven weeks in, the diesel shortage and lack of skilled doctors able to complete the surgery proved that no Haitian hospital could provide sufficient care. We desperately searched for an official diagnosis to secure acceptance by an international hospital or doctor.
One month later, the first of many miracles occurred. Hands & Feet Project received the first official diagnosis for Wildaline; the tumor was negative for malignancy. There was no cancer. As our team praised the Lord for this good news, Wildaline still urgently needed surgery because of the rate of the tumor’s growth. In our search for a US hospital to perform the necessary surgery, our team contacted over 50 hospitals and doctors to find someone willing and able to accept her case. The tumor was growing, and we were now racing against the closure of her airways and her ability to eat.
As we prayed for another miracle, we received an official yes: the plastic surgery team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital (NCH) in Miami was willing to help and excited to journey with Hands & Feet Project to save Wildaline’s life. With a hospital letter secured, it was all about getting her to the United States. This was challenging since securing a visa, and exit approval typically takes months.
In a step of faith, while waiting for the US government to approve Wildaline’s emergency medical evacuation, we secured an air ambulance. The next day, we received word that Wildaline was granted permission to travel to the United States. Final approval came through at 2:59 PM, and seventeen minutes later, we received the following message: “Ms. W is on board and doing well. Engines started.”
Once the plane touched down in Miami, the team at NCH immediately got to work. Wildaline’s journey to recovery had just begun, and our team made it a priority to prepare her for the long road ahead. We started by walking her through what was happening, praying over her, and encouraging her to be brave through what was to come.
Thirty-six hours after Wildaline arrived at NCH, our worst fears came true: the tumor’s growth had cut off her airways, and she could not breathe. Immediately, doctors performed the necessary emergency surgeries. By putting in breathing and feeding tubes, she remained safe and sedated until the main procedure.
Three days later, Wildaline underwent extensive surgery to extract the massive tumor, which the doctors miraculously removed intact. The surgeons also worked to restore some of her facial structure and function. This life-saving procedure would have been impossible in Haiti just four days earlier.
After thirteen hours of surgery, the operation’s success reached our team, and everyone responded with praise and gratitude.
“Unreal. But for God.”
“Wow. Glory to the Father.”
“It’s just beyond words. Can’t even. That happened. It really happened.”
After several months of follow-up care, therapy, and much-needed rest, Wildaline made a full recovery. As she continued healing, she longed to be back in Grand Goâve with her caregivers and best friends. Wildaline is back in Haiti today, where she is healthy and thriving. This year, she started going to school and is proving to be intelligent and capable of overcoming any challenge.
After returning home, our caregivers and staff talked with Wildaline to help her understand what it would mean to share her story. They asked for her permission, and she gave a willing yes in hopes of helping others like her.