Naw Hla Paw, Miracle Girl
In late 2007 a relief team visited a remote Karen village close to a Burma Army car road. Life for the villagers was harsh, the Burma Army would arbitrarily destroy their crops and come and take away their men to use as porters. In one home, the relief team medic found a girl who claimed to be 14, but was severely stunted. She had a large swollen belly, a yellow face and spindly arms. Her parents said that a similar disease had taken the life of two of her siblings. They asked the team to take their daughter to Thailand or she would surely die.
When Naw Hla Paw arrived to Mae Sot, she was severely anemic and undernourished. Her spleen was the largest I had ever seen. I couldn’t believe she was 14 years old and shorter than an average 7 year old. A hematologist saw her and pronounced that she had a severe genetic blood disorder, and would not live out the year. Not wanting to give up, I used World Aid funds to begin her care at a local Thai Hospital. Initially the doctors were skeptical that much could be done. Naw Hla Paw dragged her tired feet to the hospital for transfusions that gave her a short-term reprieve from her anemic fatigue. She began to smile more, and I started to call her my “little sister”.
My little sister was happy, but she missed her family. The doctors said that if she returned to her village she would die. But as the years went on, amazingly she started to grow taller and stronger. Finally, we decided to defy doctor’s orders and arranged a team to help carry her home to her village for a one-month visit. She shocked us all when she insisted on walking, and did just that: for 6 hours of trekking and resting in the jungle. Her mother came rushing down the mountainside, shocked and overjoyed that her daughter was still alive. Naw Hla Paw was now sweet 16, but resembled a 9 year old.
The miracle girl continued to surpass all odds. With help of World Aid support, she lived in Mae Sot, Thailand and received quality medical care. Eventually, she came to the point where doctors began to think about removing her spleen. An Italian couple agreed to sponsor the cost for her surgery. The surgery was never considered before, because they thought it would kill her. The decision involved lots of consolation with specialists, waiting for better blood work, and prayer. In 2011, when Naw Hla Paw was turning 19, the doctors operated. The transformation after the operation was amazing. No longer a tired, yellow faced girl, Naw Hla Paw blossomed into a young woman. Since her arrival 5 years ago, she has grown a foot and gained a full life. Her future is longer and so much brighter.
Naw Hla Paw “Miracle Girl” is just one of many patients from Burma that World Aid has helped to get medical care in Thailand.