Nu Chaw Chaw, an 11-year-old from Yangon, Myanmar (formerly called Burma) was born with a club foot. Despite two surgeries, she was still extremely crippled and walked on the side of her foot. She had a very visible limp, regularly suffered from open sores on her foot, and experienced severe pain.
A chance video recording that her uncle captured during a visit to his native country of Myanmar in 2011 would forever change this young girl’s life. Today, nearly two years later, Nu underwent a donated surgery at TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, and is walking normally with a prosthetic and without pain. During her recovery over the past four months, she has also experienced American culture while living with her medical guardian in Mount Juliet, Tenn.
Nu returns to Myanmar soon and will take with her a life-changing gift of generously donated medical care and the compassionate hospitality of a relative stranger and far-away community.
Making the Connection
Mt Juliet, resident Emily Webster was watching a video her son-in-law had filmed of his family taken during a reunion visit to his homeland of Myanmar. The video happened to show his niece, Nu Chaw Chaw, who was then nine years old. She was severely crippled with a club foot and was in obvious pain as she walked.
Webster was so moved by seeing the image of the young girl and hearing her story that she felt called to help find treatment to fix Nu’s foot in the United States. It took nearly two years to gain approval for Nu to travel from her country, but it finally happened in November 2012. Webster would serve as her guardian and medical power of attorney during the trip.
“After two years of filling out applications, sharing pictures and videos, and talking to a lot of people, we finally got the exciting news that we had approval for Nu to travel overseas,” recalls Webster. “Then it all happened very quickly. We had to schedule travel plans and we still had to confirm a surgeon and a hospital willing to donate medical care.”
Webster was a 17-year nurse at TriStar Summit Medical Center in Mount Juliet. A pediatrician she knew connected her with Mark Christofersen, M.D., a pediatric orthopaedic specialist, who could perform the surgery. He and his team graciously agreed to perform the surgery and connected Webster with TriStar Centennial Women’s & Children’s hospital administrator, Joann Ettien. She, too, agreed to support the surgery and facilitated donated surgical expenses through TriStar Centennial Medical Center.
Surgery and Beyond
Surgery was scheduled for Dec. 4, 2012. There was an unexpected decision made just prior to surgery to amputate Nu’s foot because of the severity of her condition. Webster and the medical team communicated via digital video technology from the hospital, through a translator, to Nu’s parents in Myanmar about the difficult decision to amputate. The surgery has been successful in helping Nu Chaw Chaw walk normally and relieved her of pain.
“I have never seen such wonderful treatment as I have at TriStar Centennial. I felt like the red carpet was rolled out for her,” recalls Webster. “I had never experienced being so overwhelmed by something that I couldn’t talk…I was speechless that day.”
Webster and Nu Chaw Chaw went home with crutches donated by Dr. Mark Christofersen and a pediatric wheel chair from LifeCare Home Medical Equipment. TruLife soon donated a prosthetic foot and Applied Orthotics and Prosthetics supplied prothestic related materials, silicone gel liners, and gait training.
Terrell ‘Terry’ Tate, a prosthetist with Applied Orthotics and Prosthetics, treated Nu Chaw and witnessed what he calls an incredible recovery. Her post-surgical recovery would have been challenging under normal circumstances, and was even more so with the addition of adding a prosthetic to her rehabilitation.
“From the time that I met her to now, her accomplishments are tremendous,” he said. “There was tremendous courage and amazing inner strength from an 11 year old child
Webster’s employer, TriStar Summit Medical Center, also generously provided Nu’s post-surgical physical rehabilitation.
In coming weeks, a local dentist, Pryor Family Dentistry, also donated oral hygiene care.
Today, Nu Chaw Chaw is walking with ease. In the months following her surgery, she has become a member of the Mount Juliet community where she has been residing with Webster. Nu has had the opportunity to attend classes with fifth graders at Mt. Juliet Elementary School, has been attending the local church, and even traveled to Disney World in Florida and Dollywood in East Tennessee.
Webster is thankful for the opportunity to have shared in this experience with Nu Chaw Chaw and is more thankful for the generosity displayed by so many in the Nashville and Mt. Juliet communities.
“This never would have happened if Dr. Christofersen and TriStar Centennial hadn’t agreed to support us in this surgery,” she said. “We’ve given Nu Chaw Chaw the opportunity to lead a healthier life.”
The TriStar Centennial Medical Center team is proud to have been part of making a difference for the young girl as well.
“Nu Chaw Chaw looks so happy,” said Ettien. “We are so glad we could help her be a happier and healthier little girl.”