RICHMOND, Va. – Whoever deemed children resilient must have been describing Zyanne Edward.
The 11-month old, nicknamed Star, is overcoming more physical challenges in her short life than most adults ever will. The bubbly baby was born with Apert Syndrome, a rare condition that fuses fingers and toes and affects the skull which can cause blindness if not treated.
"Yes. I was concerned she would survive,” says Merliva Paul, Zyanne’s mother.
Star's mom shuddered at the thought of her daughter enduring a tormented life of stares and bullying.
"Well, she would be facing a really bad one because people would make fun of her,” says Merliva. “The stuff they would say would break her down.”
Dr. Jennifer Rhodes with Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU knew she had to act.
"We've never had to say 'no' to a child no matter how many kids pop up,” says Dr. Rhodes. "As a mother and human being, it just breaks your heart."
The plastic surgeon who works with World Pediatric Project operated on Zyanne in July. She underwent three surgeries, from head to toe.
"So, it is not only key for their function, but for their dignity,” says Dr. Rhodes.
The non-profit WPP headquartered in Richmond mobilizes teams of doctors, nurses and volunteers to Central America and the Caribbean.
WPP's Sarah Iracane says sick children receive life-saving care. The boys and girls in dire need, like Zyanne, are flown to Richmond for emergency surgery with Dr. Rhodes and her team.
"So many people would look at pictures of these kids and say it’s not possible. But she always sees the possible,” says Iracane. "Without that access to timely, quality care they would not see their next birthday.”
Nearly one month after her operation, this star patient will gladly show you her new look.
"I shed some tears but after I saw Zayanne and the way she looked there was no reason to cry,” says Merliva.
A grateful Merliva and daughter Zyanne are ready to return to St. Lucia to face the world.
"I think words cannot explain and appreciate what Dr. Rhodes did for me,” says Merliva.
"That is why I went into plastic surgery. Because we are the ones that can help make things better,” says Dr. Rhodes.
A veteran surgeon and mother of three, Dr. Rhodes says she anticipates watching Zyanne blossom even more.
"It really does take a village. I am just the privileged face of many, many people,” says Dr. Rhodes.
Zyanne Edward star is shining brighter thanks to the compassion of strangers dedicated to helping the world smile a little more one child at a time.
"It is the most fulfilling profession you can imagine,” says Dr. Rhodes.
Zyanne is scheduled to return to her home in St. Lucia very soon. She faces more surgeries down the road. Zyanne will reach her first birthday on August 13th.
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