A 5-month-old named Angel will be shuttled here from Africa on Wednesday, the first step in a journey that has become a remarkable mission of mercy and fellowship.
Moody Methodist, Friendswood United Methodist, Clear Lake United Methodist, the Osler Student Societies of the University of Texas Medical Branch, medical students, the Shriners Hospitals for Children-Galveston and donors from across the country joined forces with Maua Methodist Hospital in Kenya to smooth a path for the infant.
Angel, her mother, Pamela, and the Rev. Sue Owen will stay in Galveston several months for the infant’s reconstructive surgery and other treatment.
“Once the journey to Shriners began, there has been one blessing after another to get Angel here quickly,” said Jordie Chalupnik of League City, a mission volunteer with Clear Lake United Methodist Church.
Chalupnik was part of a mission team visiting the Kenyan hospital in June when he met Angel.
“This incredible story of survival and love for this child touched each one of us,” Chalupnik said. “The hand of God working through many U.S. churches, UTMB contacts, Maua Methodist Hospital staff and Shriners aided in the speed of passports, visas, funds and continued support for this family.”
Angel was four days old when a kerosene lantern by her bedside exploded, splashing burning fuel on her head, face, left arm and upper torso.
Flames engulfed the top part of the infant’s body. Her mother and aunt rescued her, and she was rushed to the Maua Methodist Hospital in Maua, Kenya.
The injuries were horrific — Angel’s left ear, most of her right ear, lips, eyelids, nose, left forearm and top of her head were severely damaged. Doctors set to work, amputating the remains of her left forearm and treating her burns.
The Rev. Jim Monroe, Owen’s husband, who also serves at the Maua hospital, said: “Angel was not expected to live more than a few days. However, Angel forgot to read that memo, and showed a remarkable resilience in the face of all odds.”
The infant slowly improved, tracking movement with her eyes, nursing well, gaining weight and strength during the summer.
“Angel laughs, coos, tries making sounds with her tongue and smiles as best she can with her crooked mouth,” Monroe wrote to supporters.
UTMB students working a hospital rotation at the Maua facility through a school global health program soon were won over by the infant’s sweet disposition. Could Angel be brought to the highly specialized pediatric burn unit of Shriners Hospitals for Children-Galveston, student Claudia Gutarra asked?
Shriners agreed and a unique collaboration was formed as supporters moved quickly to underwrite the expenses — round-trip tickets for mother and child and Owen, a host family, living expenses and passport and visa expenses.
“It’s a very cool collaboration between faith-based groups, the university and service-based groups at UTMB,” said Dr. Matthew Dacso, director of the UTMB Center for Global Health Education. “This is a really rare event for everything to come together like this.”
Donations are being accepted in hopes of gathering enough funds to build Pamela and Angel a new home.
“The willingness for people to step forward and give hope is an inspiration,” said Steve Freeman, Friendswood UMC mission volunteer.
Freeman stressed the work of the small Kenya-run Maua Methodist Hospital, known for its ministry to cancer, AIDS and burn patients and its outreach to abandoned AIDS children.
“Baby Angel is a symbol of a lot of that — a medical miracle, a case buried in despair that has been given hope, the example of people caring and sharing to help someone else,” he said.
Supporters also have been touched by the words of Pamela’s mother, encouraging her daughter: “Never see your child with human eyes, as burned and handicapped,” she said as quoted by Monroe in a letter to supporters.
“Instead, look upon Angel with the eyes of God. What you will see through God’s eyes is a beautiful, perfect human being filled with grace, love and hope — and full of life!”
- More than $18,000 has been raised to help Angel and her family. Any money over the cost of those expenses will go to building them a new home because their old one was destroyed in the fire.
- Donations can be sent to Friendswood United Methodist Church, 110 N. Friendswood Drive, Friendswood, TX 77546. Designate the gift as “Angel’s Fund.”