Romanian orphan's road to recovery in Bakersfield

A forgotten girl from Romania who came to California for two lifesaving surgeries, is on the road to recovery thanks to a compassionate woman from Kern County.

A forgotten girl from Romania who came to California for two lifesaving surgeries, is on the road to recovery thanks to a compassionate woman from Kern County.

Though her non-profit organization, Father's Care Ministry, Nannette Gonzalez has brought 16 children to the United States to receive lifesaving surgeries they can't get in their home countries.

With the jingle jangle of her small necklace and her pigtails bouncing in the air, it's hard to miss 6-year-old Aristita Gheorghe.

"They said she has more energy than she did before," said Nannette Gonzalez.

17 News first told you about little Ari in August. She was born in Romania with a rare condition called Apert Syndrome, which causes facial deformities and webbed hands and feet.

When she was born, doctors told Ari's parents to abandon her because she had only six months to live. Ari ended up at Victor Gomoiu Hospital, where she was cared for by Gonzalez.

"When we left her, we have no joy," said Stefan Gheorghe, Ari's Father.

Three years ago, Gheorghe and his wife Donna found Ari and brought her home.

"I couldn't believe it's her. I was looking at her and I feel so guilty because she was like a normal child. We don't see her deformities. We can't seem them anymore," he continued.

Four months ago, Gonzalez brought the family to California so Ari could get two lifesaving surgeries in San Diego.

Dr. Steven Cohen, one of the top plastic surgeons in the world, performed the surgeries free of charge. He did it with the help of Fresh Start Surgical Gifts, a non-profit that looks for doctors to do free medical operations.

"They told me that they never met such child, to go by herself in the surgery room, hold them by their hands, laughing," said Gheorghe.

Ari is still healing, but that hasn't slowed her down.

"They had to cut open and pull her whole face down to her lip and they cut a bone that was pressing against her brain," explained Gonzalez.

"They went in and made her eyes more symmetrical. They also separated one of her hands," she continued.

"What they did is unbelievable," explained Gheorghe.

For the first time, Ari has five fingers she can use. "She can hold a pen with the hand. She can eat by herself with that hand," he continued.

"It's truly amazing. I couldn't believe she looked so much different. It's incredible," said Gonzalez.

For Ari, this is just the beginning. "I think she sees a change and she likes it," she continued.

"Amazing, amazing. We can't ask for more," said Gheorghe.

Ari and her family left Wednesday night to return to Romania. They will be back in California in May for Ari's third surgery to separate her toes and fingers on her other hand.

You can learn more about Gonzalez's work or make donations at www.fatherscareministry.com. You can also contact her at (661) 900-3833.

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