A six-year-old girl born without half her face can finally smile for the first time after an 11-hour-long surgery in London.
Darina Shpengler was born with a serious genetic mutation which left her with no lips or chin, limiting her ability to eat and speak.
The young girl’s mother, Elena, gave up her job to look after Darina and she and her husband, Yuri, fought a tough campaign for their daughter’s chance to receive appropriate medical help.
From the time Darina was born, the Shpenglershave been treated with cruelty, not only from strangers, but also from their relatives as well. “Only my sister supported me, all other relatives just stopped any communication with us. My brothers, their children, and my husband’s mother – nobody wanted to accept Darina.” Elena said.
Darina was even denied access to kindergarten as the school thought other children “would be scared of her.” The little girl did not even have friends, “She is such a sociable girl,” Elena said. “We have bought lots of toys for her but nothing can replace friends.”
Through it all, Darina’s parents remained by their child’s side and tried to raise her in as loving an environment as they could. “We do not hide Darina from people. We take her everywhere with us. My husband Yury does not feel ashamed either. He takes Darina everywhere. People told us to put a mask on her but he replied: ‘If you don’t want, don’t look at her – but we accept her the way she is.” Elena said.
Thankfully, things are now looking up for the bubbly little girl and her family. After Darina’s story was publicized a fundraiser was set up and the family received an overwhelming amount of support from generous donors.
This enabled Darina and her mom to travel to Britain for a pioneering surgery which is the first in a series of operations to give the little girl the complete face that she has never had.
Last week, Darina Shpengler returned happily to her native Russia to be reunited with her dad after the life-changing operation. “You are so beautiful.” said her 49-year-old father Yury on video as he hugged his child for the first time since June.
“You see, she has learned to laugh!” Elena exclaimed with tears of joy on her face.
Darina is now back at her home in Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk region as fundraising starts for the next stage which will see the Great Ormond Street surgeons construct her upper jaw and lip.
We wish this beautiful child and her family all the best as they await her treatments.