A Little Girl's Resilience

Child's rapid recovery bodes well for future surgeries
By: Tucker McQueen / Staff @ Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Beatrice doesn't have a new nose yet, but she does have a new mouth, and the 7-year-old's doctors are thrilled with her progress. Last month, surgeons at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite completed the first of several operations to create an upper lip, palate and nose for the orphan from Zambia.

After being released from the hospital, Beatrice was glad to be back at her guardian's home in Smyrna.

As if nothing had happened, she curled up on a sofa to watch her favorite movie, a 1995 update of the classic "The Little Princess."

The choice seemed appropriate to Anne Patrick, who has developed a deep attachment to the slight but vibrant child.

Patrick met the child while she was on a church mission to south-central Africa in January. She agreed to be Beatrice's legal guardian while she is here for treatment.

Patrick was also relieved to be home.

After the surgery, she waited anxiously for four days for the child to wake up from a coma induced to promote healing.

Patrick had promised Beatrice that she would be there when she woke up.

She was at the girl's bedside when Beatrice opened her eyes. She touched Patrick's mouth and then her own.

"I laid my head on her bed the rest of the night, " Patrick said.

"She reached her arms around my neck and patted me on the back."

The child's surgeons say the critical part is over now and she is doing exceptionally well.

Plastic surgeon Mark Deutsch had worried that a tiny vein and artery, transplanted with skin from her right forearm to her face, might close. But he said chances of the grafted skin failing now are slim.

"It was so exciting to see her look in the mirror the first time," Deutsch said. "She looked great. She was very happy."

As a baby, Beatrice was left with a gaping hole in her face during botched surgery for a tumor on her face.

Doctors had expected Beatrice to have a feeding tube in when she went home, but she rebounded quickly, and the tube was removed.

She is able to take liquids and eat some soft food, including another favorite, biscuits. Patrick said her charge doesn't know what to do yet with her new mouth, but thinks she will adjust quickly.
"She has sad eyes, " she said. "But I know it's just a matter of time until we see her Bea--attitude again."

"I'm Not Scared Now"

Zambian girl, 7, in U.S. for a nose is 'voice of others'
By: Tucker McQueen / Staff @ Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A few days before her second surgery in four months, the little girl thought about pepperoni pizza and chocolate ice cream. She knew she wouldn't get pizza at the hospital, but ice cream was a sure bet. Food wasn't the only thing Beatrice Kunda had on her mind. She remembered the pain after her first operation and said she was frightened. Anne Patrick, the woman who has cared for the orphan since she arrived from Zambia eight months ago, calmed her about what lay ahead.

"Will I get a nose?" Beatrice asked.

"Not this time, " Patrick said. "But soon. You'll have a nose soon."

"It's all right. I'm not scared now, " the girl replied.

She was disfigured as an infant after surgery for a tumor left her with a gaping hole in her face.

Last week Beatrice, who's 7, came a step closer to looking like other children her age. She came through surgery Tuesday at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite without complications. Dr. Joseph Williams, a pediatric craniofacial surgeon, took bone from her hip and transplanted it into her jaw. He also worked on bringing in the corners of her mouth.

"My goal is for her to look as normal as possible, " Williams said after the three-hour procedure. "I want her to be able to live her life without psychological baggage."

In a few months, Beatrice will be fitted with a prosthetic nose. In about a year she will have two more operations to create an upper lip. Williams said those surgeries, three weeks apart, will be similar to procedures that correct a cleft palate.

When Beatrice is 11 or 12, she should be old enough for surgery to build a permanent nose.

"We'll get there, " Williams said. "The transformation is amazing. She will look dramatically different when she gets a nose."

"I have seen her blossom, " Patrick said. "Her babyness is disappearing, and she is becoming more like a little girl."

©2005 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Reprinted with permission from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Further reproduction, retransmission or distribution of these materials without the prior written consent of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and any copyright holder identified in the material’s copyright notice, is prohibited.