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Girl With Deformities Rescued From Bonfire To Get New Legs

August 7, 1987

BOSTON (AP) _ A crippled Ecuadoran girl, whose parents nearly cast her into a jungle bonfire because of her deformed legs, has undergone surgery that will allow her to walk for the first time in her life.

Maria Andy, rescued shortly after her birth seven years ago by two Roman Catholic nuns, was listed in fair condition today, a day after surgeons at Children’s Hospital amputated her twisted and useless legs at the knee.

She will be fitted with artificial limbs that doctors believe will enable her to walk.

″She says she wants nice legs so she can wear red shoes and dance,″ Rosa Mino, Maria’s guardian, said before the surgery. ″She’s not nervous. I’ve been telling her all this time she’ll have beautiful legs. She’s excited about her new legs.″

The guardian said Maria seemed pale after the surgery. ″I have to concentrate on getting her back to Ecuador and getting her walking,″ she said, breaking into tears.

Dr. James Kasser, who performed the operation, said Maria was comfortable after the surgery. She should be able to leave the hospital within a week, he said.

Kasser estimated that Maria will learn to walk on her new legs within three months. Doctors plan a second operation to correct a spinal deformity in six months, he said.

After rescuing the infant Maria, the nuns took her to an orphanage in Quito, Ecuador, where she became the best student in her class and was chosen the 1987 poster child by Por Cristo (For Christ), a charitable medical group.

Por Cristo paid for Maria to travel to Children’s Hospital.

Chris D’Entremont, a spokeswoman for Por Cristo, said the amputation was deemed necessary after Por Cristo workers found Maria’s legs too twisted. Her leg muscles are almost non-existent.

″The nuns in the orphanage didn’t have enough medical knowledge to let her do exercise,″ Ms. D’Entremont said.

Since her arrival in Boston on May 29, Maria received physical therapy to exercise the muscles in her back and legs, which are twisted from severe scoliosis, curvature of the spine.

The physical therapy Maria received at the Braintree Hospital and the Braintree Rehabilitation Center strengthened her thigh muscles enough so that doctors think she will be able to walk with artificial legs.

Dr. Martin Dunn, a founder of Por Cristo, said Maria is ″a real extrovert, always with a beautiful smile and very intelligent, tops in her class in the first grade back in Ecuador.″

Dunn said orphanage officials recently located Maria’s parents, but they reiterated they wanted nothing to do with her. Maria’s parents set the fire she was about to be thrown into shortly after she was born.

″They call her the daughter of the devil,″ Dunn said.

Because of the way the orphanage is set up in Quito, Maria will have to leave when she is 14, Por Cristo officials said.

Por Cristo is a group of North American medical professionals who work with their counterparts in South America to improve medical conditions there. The group sponsors doctors, nurses, hygienists, therapists, medical photographers and others who travel to South American countries to treat sick people.

In the last several years, Por Cristo has sent 109 volunteers to South America. They have seen more than 25,000 patients and performed more than 180 operations.

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