It's been a long, painful road for an 11-year-old girl who was once disfigured in a fire and then abandoned, near death, in a Chinese orphanage.
You wouldn't think Cokie Allen has a lot to smile about, but the fifth-grader was brought to tears Thursday thanks to the generosity of a Nashville plastic surgeon and his team.
"She couldn't even wear sandals, because her toes are all gone," said the girl's mother, Sandra Allen.
Cokie has seen more heartbreak in her short life than most of us may see in a lifetime.
"When we first got her, she couldn't walk. The burns had totally crippled her," Sandra Allen said.
When Michael and Sandra Allen first saw her in a Chinese orphanage, the then-toddler was near death. Her legs were black and skin raw after a devastating fire when she was just 1-year -old.
Now, nearly three dozen surgeries later, the quiet girl is thriving thanks to her adoptive family and surgeons like Dr. Jack Fisher.
The Allens drove five hours Thursday from Indianapolis so Fisher and his team could replace some of the hair Cokie lost during numerous skin grafts for her legs.
And they are doing it all free of charge.
"She's already had surgery to reconstruct the defects in Indianapolis. What we're doing is we're filling in those grafts," Fisher said.
First, Fisher closed the gaps in the girl's scalp while his staff carefully threaded hair into the follicles.
Later, he'll transplant those follicles into Cokie's scalp in a four- to five-hour procedure.
"Hair loss, especially for women, is very difficult. For a young girl, it's a very difficult situation," Fisher said. "It just is to make someone feel whole and make them feel comfortable about themselves."
In eight to 10 months, Cokie's hair should start to grow on its own, filling in most of her bald spots.
She is already looking forward to it.
"Growing it out and doing new hairstyles," Cokie said.
"She's 11, and she started worrying more and more about her hair, and so I think this was really important with Dr. Fisher," Sandra Allen said.
There were tears of joy and gratitude for yet another blessing in this young girl's life that began with so much tragedy.
"He's just a really nice guy," Cokie said.
Fisher says Cokie may need another procedure in another year to fill in more gaps, but he says her outlook is good.
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Tuesday, September 2 2014 3:22 PM EDT2014-09-02 19:22:14 GMT
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