Thirteen-year-old Keilyn Veliz has seen more than her share of hardship. It was back in June of 2012 when a gunman broke into her home in Honduras, shot and killed her grandfather, and also shot Keilyn.
"She caught a stray bullet to the chest," said Prudence Martin. "It tore up her esophagus, punctured both lungs. It's amazing that she's even still alive."
Keilyn was brought to the Midstate to live with Martin, who is a nurse, but is also part of the group Casa Corazon—which brings children to the United States so they can get care that would not be available in places like Honduras.
"They were supposed to replace her esophagus," said Dr. Domingo Alvear. "You transplant the colon, the stomach to the neck, and they don't do those procedures."
Dr. Alvear of PinnacleHealth performed the unusual surgery. He has visited Honduras on a number of occasions to offer first class medical care to the third world country.
Keilyn ate for the first time Friday—a grape popsicle. She's been eating through a tube for months, but she will soon be eating totally on her own. What she really wants is a banana.
"Wow," said Dr. Alvear. "I'll probably let her eat a banana in a week."
Keilyn will stay with Prudence Martin for 8 months before she returns home.
What do you miss the most about home? "My brothers," she said.
It's easy to see in Martin's eyes that Keilyn has a family here also.
"We love her. We dress her. We feed her," Martin said. "We take her everywhere we go, and she's our child while she's here."