By: Sara Navarro   |   Posted: August 13, 2022

See how God has shaped Isabela into a beautiful new form — just like the butterflies she loves — using a global community of caring Christians.

Isabela Has Lost a Lot. These Advocates Help Give Her Hope.

See how God has shaped Isabela into a beautiful new form — just like the butterflies she loves — using a global community of caring Christians.

Written by Sara Navarro
Isabela stands on a street

When night falls and Isabela slips into sleep, she can feel her two feet touching the ground. In her dreams, she can run as fast as she used to. In her dreams, she can run and jump and enjoy her favorite games with her friends.

When the 11-year-old wakes up, her reality is different. Something is missing. Her right leg is gone, and she still isn’t used to it.

“Sometimes I dream I’m flying in the sky, touching the sky, just like a butterfly,” says Isabela. “I dream I’m in heaven playing with my friends, and we have fun. There I can jump and play.”

“But I also dream with the doctors who take care of me in the hospital. I still remember those days.”

This is the remarkable story of how God used a global community of caring Christians to transform the life of a highly vulnerable child.

Metamorphosis: Isabela’s Transformation

Isabela wears her wings

The Egg

Isabela was once known as a beggar in her community in Brazil.

Her mother had moved away, leaving Isabela to be raised by her grandparents — recyclers whose only income came from selling scrap materials. While they spent their days hunting for recyclables to sell, Isabela and her cousins were hungry. They would go to the public market or people’s homes asking for food.

One day, the children went somewhere new to ask for help: a church that partners with Compassion. The pastor gave the children something to eat and spoke with Vilma, director of the church’s Compassion center. He asked if they could help support the family.

“I visited Isabela’s family’s house, and I knew we needed to help the children,” Vilma remembers. The two-room home was tiny, with Isabela’s 15 family members squeezing together on beds and sofas.

Seeing that the family had few resources and no support network, Vilma registered Isabela and two of her cousins in Compassion’s program. They would begin going to the Compassion center to eat, learn, play and hear the Gospel.

The Caterpillar

Isabela sits on her bed

Things were looking brighter for Isabela. But one day she was crossing a highway in her community when she was hit by a truck.

When Vilma learned that Isabela was in the hospital with a badly injured leg, she immediately went to visit her. “Isabela’s leg situation was very complicated,” says Vilma. The girl was transferred to a hospital about 150 miles from her home, where she spent months undergoing procedures including a skin graft.

But when Isabela returned home, her leg became infected — likely related to her family’s crowded conditions and lack of resources.

“On my visits to Isabela’s house, I always talked to the family about the importance of taking care of Isabela’s leg and changing the bandages three times a day,” Vilma says. “But they told me that they didn’t have the necessary materials to do it. So I started to get gauze and bandage products every day at the hospital and take them to her house.”

Despite Vilma’s help and several more hospital visits, Isabela’s leg didn’t improve. Her knee started to bend, and she couldn’t put her other foot on the ground.

“The other children on the street always called me ‘Broken Leg’ or ‘Rotten Leg.’ I was upset,” Isabela says. “I started to cry. ‘Aunt’ Vilma always took me to the hospital, and there the nurses took care of me.”

After a year and a half in and out of the hospital with Isabela, Vilma took her to a specialist for a more complete analysis.

The Chrysalis

Isabela stands with her Compassion center director

“I was in the room with my grandmother when I heard the doctor talk to her and say they will have to cut off my leg and we need to schedule a date for the surgery,” says Isabela. “I felt so scared.”

Isabela’s body had rejected the skin graft and deformed the bone. The doctors concluded there was nothing they could do to save the 11-year-old’s leg. The only option was to amputate.

After Vilma heard the devastating news, she mobilized volunteers at the Compassion center to assist the young girl throughout her hospital stay. Vilma also organized additional support through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children (HVC) fund. Almost all children in poverty live in harsh contexts and are vulnerable. But some, like Isabela, face even more troubling circumstances. That’s why donors who give to the HVC can be literal lifesavers.

Give to Highly Vulnerable Children

“Whenever we notice cases of highly vulnerable children, we seek to intervene more directly in the family’s environment to improve the child’s life,” Vilma says. “In addition, we have partnerships with other organizations in the child support network, such as schools, hospitals, psychologists and social services.”

“In Isabela’s case, the family context with numerous people living in the same house, the lack of resources, the absence of her parents and her leg damage made her a highly vulnerable child.”

Breaking the Cocoon

After the amputation, Isabela spent about 20 days in the hospital. Compassion center volunteers visited her almost every day to take her toys and homework from school and the center.

“The center’s ‘aunts’ are really nice. They always visited me and brought me cool things to do at the hospital,” Isabela remembers.

“I missed the center a lot while I was in hospital. It’s my favorite place in the world. I never want to leave when I am there.”

With HVC funds, the center brought a bed, a mattress, a fan, a wheelchair and additional food for Isabela. To prevent her surgical stitches from getting infected and to provide a more comfortable environment, the center rented a house for Isabela to recuperate in with two of her family members.

Isabela sits in her wheelchair

“After Isabela returned home, I took responsibility for taking her every day to a clinic that took care of dressing her surgical stitches,” says Vilma.

Before leaving the hospital, Isabela received many gifts from the nurses and doctors, as almost the entire city had learned about her story. Receiving so much affection and so many gifts lifted her spirits.

Still, sometimes Isabela’s smile hides her sadness of not being able to do the same things she could before. It’s times like these when the power of friendship becomes apparent. Isabela’s best friend helps remind her she isn’t alone.

“Not having my leg makes me sad sometimes, and I want it back,” Isabela says. ... My best friend cried a lot when she saw me after the surgery because I was missing my leg. She always plays with me and doesn’t leave me alone.”

The Butterfly

Isabela wears her wings

Anyone who knows Isabela will undoubtedly see a happy child who is always playing and looking for adventures, even after surgery. Despite Isabela’s physical limitations, she knows her dreams haven’t been lost. She also knows she has a loving team of people at her center who are dedicated to ensuring she is known, loved and protected.

“When I was in the hospital, the nurses and the doctors took care of me,” she says. “They helped to heal me. That’s why I also want to be a doctor when I grow up.

One of her favorite hobbies is collecting flowers and playing with butterflies, even if it’s a bit harder to chase them now.

“I love butterflies. I like to chase them and see them land on my finger. They are so beautiful.”

“Now it’s not so easy to jump after them because of my leg. I wish I were like them,” Isabela says. “Then I could fly anywhere, just like in my dreams.”

Children shouldn’t have to fight the fallout of poverty alone. Empower highly vulnerable children to follow their dreams! Your gift will equip local churches to rally around children with extraordinary needs, giving them the resources and hope they need to thrive.

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