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Surgery correcting clubfoot gives seven-year-old girl a new chance at life

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Seven-year-old Ainata Saba was born with clubfoot in West Africa.

In the village she lives in, people view deformities as a curse or an omen of evil. They’re not allowed to attend school, and such a condition means finding work in villages where most jobs involve physical labor is all but impossible.

"She's not been allowed to get an education because of her deformity. We went from village to village taking pictures of kids with medical needs, and I took her picture."
Holly Christinim

Clubfoot is a disability that affects children who are otherwise healthy and occurs when the tendons in their feet are shorter than they should be. It makes their feet turn inwards and down, which makes walking a major struggle.

If the physical discomfort wasn't difficult enough, the villagers in Ainata's homeland of Burkina Faso perceive her deformity as a sign of evil.

"If there's a drought or a flood, those with deformities are the cause," said Holly Christini, who has traveled from her home in Galion, OH to third world countries throughout Africa on mission trips.

Over half of all cases of clubfoot are easily correctable through surgery. But in third world countries, treatment is rare because medical costs are too expensive.

Ainata was all but exiled from her village when she met Christini in 2016. Christini is a full-time nurse from Ohio who travels to third world countries throughout Africa on mission trips.

Christini showed photos of Ainata's feet to Dr. Jose Morcuende and the orthopedics department at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UHIC). Without hesitation, he agreed to complete her care completely for free.

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With the help of Lifeline Pilots, an organization that facilitates free transportation through volunteer pilots for financially distressed passengers with medical and humanitarian needs, Ainata was flown to UHIC for surgery.

Doctors say that Ainata will be able to walk again in September, and after three months of physical therapy, she can return to West Africa to start her new and improved life.

"We have full-time jobs, and we always think that we have enough to do. We can always give a little more to someone else who is in need."
Holly Christinim

If you want to donate to help another child get the life changing surgery they need, head over to Children's Medical Missions West for more information.

KGAN contributed to this report.

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