After arriving from Haiti, Vanessa's journey continues

10:00 PM, Dec 15, 2011   |    comments
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For three days, she waited for rescue. When crews got her out, she had a few cuts and scratches, but considering the circumstances, she was relatively OK.

To be quite honest, Blount's disease had already done its worst to severely transform this little girl's legs years prior. Her bow legs were still an issue, but she was alive.

Six months later, an American couple showed up in Port-au-Prince and came to the quick conclusion that this was a girl in serious need of a break.

"Vanessa came out and sat beside me and started talking to me," Kari Potthoff explained. "Just like that, I felt very connected to this little girl."

To hear Kari and Tony Potthoff tell it, Vanessa's journey to the United States had a little to do with them helping a 9-year-old Haitian orphan and a lot more to do with a 9-year-old Haitian orphan helping an American couple learn a thing or two about life.

"The day I left the orphanage, she was just bawling," Kari Potthoff said. "I said to her that we would find a way to get her legs fixed."

That led to a surgery that happened earlier this year at Children's Hospital Colorado.

"Hopefully we can get her more level to the ground," Dr. Mark Erickson said on the day of the operation. "We don't usually see this magnitude. Usually we'd see the kids by age four with half of the deformity that she has."

"The goal for her is pretty simple," he added. "It won't be perfect. We won't be able to get it to perfect, but hopefully we can get it to allow her to be much more functional."

Hours later, it was already clear the plan was going exceptionally well.

Yet the Potthoff's were understandably concerned. A long journey was still ahead for all of them.

"I worry. Is she going to be OK? Is she going to understand everything? Is she going to tolerate the pain?" Kari Potthoff said.

9NEWS followed Vanessa's remarkable journey for three months. What follows is a journey not only of the body but of the mind and spirit. Vanessa's walking these days on nearly straight legs.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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