It is not uncommon for a couple immersed in their profession to decide that children may not be in their future. Lisa Buckmiller, M.D., and her husband, Richard Hinkle, were at that time when they met an orphan girl who would change the course of their lives.
The Fall 2006 issue of Children's Hospitals Today featured the story of Gong Lu, an orphan from Fenyi, China. The administrators of the welfare center where she had lived since birth were looking for a doctor to remove the vascular tumor that covered Gong Lu's nose. They wanted the treatment done before making it available for adoption.
Buckmiller, who had made several mission trips to China with doctors at the Arkansas Children's Hospital, offered help. At the time, Gong Lu was 5 years old and with the help of Love Without Boundaries, she went to the United States for surgery where Buckmiller and the vascular anomalies team removed 95% of the tumor. .
After his recovery, Gong Lu returned to the health center in China. She told the administrators that she dreamed of having no more tumors, going to school and being adopted into a loving family. She did not know that the adoption process was going on.
Fast forward one year, and Gong Lu is in the United States, now Anna Gong Lu Hinkle, the adopted daughter of Buckmiller and Hinkle. "It was incredible," says Buckmiller. "This has probably been the most rewarding thing in our lives to have adopted it." Within three months of arriving in her new home, Anna underwent further surgeries, one of 16 hours, to begin rebuilding her nose.
His parents say they had to quickly find some words in Chinese to communicate urgent needs and information. "It was shocking how quickly she learned and became fluent in English," says Buckmiller. "The language barrier has never been a problem."
Ablation and reconstruction of her nose required six separate surgeries, and Anna had her last surgery at the age of 9 years. "I always wanted to get rid of my big red nose," says Anna. "When I saw my face without that nose, I did not recognize myself, it was a new look for my new life, I feel like all the other kids now."
The family also checked Anna's dream of going to school. Gong Lu had not been sent to school in China, so she was two years behind school. Anna worked with a guardian to catch up a year, then she studied alone. Today, she is a sophomore in high school.
The family moved to Texas where Buckmiller is the head of the pediatric division of the ears, nose and throat of the San Antonio Children's Hospital and continues to give time to those who need it on missions. In the last 18 years, Buckmiller has traveled to Kenya to repair the clefts and palates of children. Anna went with her mother for the first time last March. "I fell in love with that," says Anna. "I'm delighted to be able to make children feel good about themselves, just as I wanted to feel good.
Today, Anna has a new nose and the life she dreamed of, while her parents enjoy a family they did not expect to create. "It worked beyond what my husband and I could have hoped for," says Buckmiller. "And, he reiterated my belief to be available to help these children with facial deformities have a more normal life. We were just able to go further and bring Anna into our family.