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Crippled Ecuadoran Girl Takes Big Step Toward Her Dream

October 29, 1987

BOSTON (AP) _ A crippled Ecuadoran girl who was nearly cast into a jungle bonfire because of her deformed legs has taken her first steps in her permanent artifical limbs and may soon realize her dream of dancing in red shoes.

Seven-year-old Maria Andy will walk without crutches one day and will be sent home next week after she learns to balance on the new prosthetic legs she wore for the first time Wednesday, said doctors at Childrens’ Hospital.

Maria was flown to Boston from an Ecuadoran orphanage last spring for leg surgery sponsored by Por Cristo, a charitable group of health professionals.

As an infant, she was rescued by nuns just as her parents were about to throw her into a jungle bonfire because of her deformity. She was born with severe scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, and maneuvered around on her backside dragging her useless legs behind her.

At first, Children’s Hospital doctors were unsure they could do anything except strengthen her legs. But Maria proved strong enough for doctors to decide to amputate her legs and fit her with new ones.

″She says she wants nice legs so she can wear red shoes and dance,″ translator Rosa Mino said in August, before the amputations.

Before her permanent limbs were fitted Wednesday, Maria rode a tricycle for the first time and took a few steps without crutches on her old prostheses. Then, she was fitted with her new legs and took several steps in them.

Maria will be fitted permanently Monday with the prostheses.

Though doctors originally thought she would have to use crutches, she walked without them on the first prostheses she received and they believe she will not need them after a few months with her new ones.

″We never thought she’d be able to it,″ said Dr. Martin Dunn, who helped arrange Maria’s journey from Ecuador. ″She’s made remarkable progress. There’s no question that she’ll be able to walk without crutches.″

Dunn attributes Maria’s success to her tenacity, a trait that everyone who knows the child comments on.

″It’s her perseverance,″ he said. ″It’s a question of wanting to do something badly enough. It’s been said before, she wants to be able to dance and ride a bicycle. She was born to do this.″

Dunn plans to return to Ecuador in two weeks to ask for permission to keep Maria in the United States. She still needs spinal surgery and the rigorous physical therapy she receives five days a week in Boston.

Maria is living with Joyce and James Kidd of Waltham, who say she is already almost fluent in English.

″She’s kind of setting the world on fire,″ said Mrs. Kidd. ″She’s tough as nails. The way I look at it is she had to be to get where she is.″

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