A little girl who suffered a dreadful accident is being given a new hope.
Three-year-old Victoria Wilcher was attacked in April by three of her grandfather's pitbulls at his home in Simpson County, Mississippi. She permanently lost her right eye, and multiple bones in her face were shattered.
Other long-term effects of the attack included a loss of hearing in the victim's right ear, the loss of almost all her teeth and a lack of strength in the jaw. The latter injuries have affected Victoria's ability to speak, swallow, and chew food, for which she has needed extensive physical therapy.
The story received nationwide press after the girl's struggle to recover was publicized by her grandmother on her Facebook page, "Victoria's Victories."
Since that time Victoria's family has been able to raise over $130,000 through online donations for her medical expenses, many of which are not covered by their insurance.
In addition to contributing to the fund raising effort, Las Vegas plastic surgeon Frank L. Stile has helped Victoria by offering to treat her injuries for free.
The accident threw the young girl's family into further tumult in the ensuing time. Victoria's grandfather, Donald Mullins, and his girlfriend, Rita Tompkins, who had rushed to her aid and were also attacked by the dogs in the process, faced child endangerment charges. Afterward, some dispute was raised as to insensitivity toward the girl on the part of a KFC restaurant, which KFC has denied.
Victoria has endured repeated surgeries and a long, painstaking recovery, but according to her grandmother, Kelly Mullins, she has maintained a positive attitude, an inspiring feat for a brave child.
And after a long battle, Victoria's bravery was rewarded.
A New Prosthesis, No Charge
Victoria got a new reason to be happy in July, when the Center for Custom Prosthetics in Naples, Florida provided her with a specially designed acrylic eye on the house.
Accompanying her to Florida were Ms. Mullins, Victoria's mother Anita, and Janet Kellum, a retired nurse from the University of Maryland Medical Center. Ms. Kellum also donated her time and service to the family without charge.
There the family met with the Center's owner, Dr. Raymond Peters, and his wife Susan. Victoria's family has said that the Peters have become like another set of grandparents to the struggling child.
Dr. Peters said the move was motivated by his sensitivity toward the plight that the girl has undergone.
"I've got a lot of empathy for children, always have," Peters stated to the press. "I can imagine what that child's going through because I've been in this business long enough."
Dr. Peters's experience in the field of prosthetics has been long and rich indeed. He began working in this area while serving in the Navy, as part of the Medical Research Division of the Bethesda, MD Naval Complex. Since that time he has practiced in Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas.
In the late 1990s, he retired from medicine and relocated to Florida. Once there, his passion for his work drew him to create the Center for Custom Prosthetics in the laundry room of his house, with the aid of his wife.
"When we moved... he got bored real quickly," recalls Mrs. Peters on the onset of the practice she created along with her husband, whom she calls "Smokey." "He told me, 'As long as I have two steady hands, I need to be helping people.'"
Since making that fateful decision, Dr. Peters has been able to satiate his appetite for service to mankind, along with his associate, Dr. David Trainer -- who specializes in prostheses for the nose and ear. The two have treated patients from around the world who come to benefit from their expertise.
This expertise is currently benefiting young Victoria, who has gained not only a new eye but a loving support base in Florida.
The exchange has been mutual; Dr. Peters's and Dr. Trainer's practice, while previously highly reputed, has gained a great deal of media exposure and acclaim for its work with Victoria. The harrowing story of a little girl who went through a horrendous and life-changing episode has been deeply compelling to many around the world who are moved by its show of courage, resilience and the power of the simple kindness of others.
It now seems that in spite of all the trouble she has experienced, Victoria's new eye has in fact done a great deal to help. Kelly Mullins has said that the prosthesis has lifted her young granddaughter's spirits and seemingly brought her back to her normal self.
"She'll sit there and say 'eye, eye, eye ... ' She likes the way she looks again. She is so happy and more like the Victoria I've always known," Ms. Mullins told The Clarion-Ledger.
This is a significant step forward, on what still promises to be a long and trying road.
By Bessam Idani
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