Vanuatu girl to walk again through surgery

Vinna Sapa 8 has come to Hamilton with her mother Korina Tavo from Tanna in Vanuatu so that she can get urgent medical attention for a serious infection in her leg
Vinna Sapa, 8,is in Hamilton with her mother Korina Tavo from Tanna, so that she can get urgent medical attention for a serious infection in her leg.

THE determination of a loving mother and the generosity of Kiwis is giving a young ni-Vanuatu girl the power to walk again, more than two years after a life-threatening infection robbed her of her mobility.

On July 11, 8-year-old Vinna Sapa will undergo surgery at Waikato Hospital on her right leg to repair two fractures in her femur and clear an infection in the bone.

It’s a complex operation but the result will be life-changing for Vinna and her mother Korina Tavo, who have travelled 2100km from their home on the remote island of Tanna to Hamilton for the procedure.

The surgery and her rehabilitation have been organised and funded by a partnership between Kiwi charities Fruit of the Pacific, Marine Reach and Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC).

The treatment is expected to restore Vinna’s ability to walk – something she hasn’t been able to do since one Sunday morning in November 2014 when she woke up seriously ill with osteomyelitis – an infection in her bone.

“She got a fever and then her whole body swelled up,” Tavo said.

Over the next two years Vinna was in out and out of hospital. Doctors in Vanuatu did all they could with the resources they had.

Vinna was in constant pain, unable to put any weight on her leg. She couldn’t go to school because Tavo had to carry her everywhere.

“I felt so very sorry for her,” the devoted mum told the Herald on Sunday. “She didn’t play with other kids, just stayed at home, because her leg was swollen.”

In March 2015 Cyclone Pam struck, devastating the family’s village and destroying their home.

Tanna was cut off from the rest of the country but Tavo refused to give up and continued to take Vinna to the local hospital – normally about an hour’s walk along a steep, potholed road – for antibiotic treatment whenever she could afford the NZ$20 it cost to hire a truck to get her there safely.

Then, in June 2016, a Marine Reach medical ship run by a Tauranga-based Christian group, arrived at a nearby village.

Vinna’s parents carried her there and waited all day for her to be assessed.

The organisation didn’t have the equipment onboard to treat her so took Vinna to its Family Care Centre in Port Vila for further treatment.