A beaming Marjory de Lourdes Vega Chavez left Children's Medical Center in Dallas last week after a successful operation that doctors hope will give her a new start on life.
For Marjory, a 10-year-old Ecuadorean girl with a broad smile and quick embrace, the operation -- made possible through the work of a Silver Spring woman and a Washington-based hotel chain -- is the realization of her dream to be like the other children she plays with in the mountains of north central Ecuador.
For Phyllis Yvonne Dodd, the Silver Spring woman who met Marjory when Dodd was a Peace Corps worker in Ecuador, the operation was the result of years of effort -- first to re-establish contact with Marjory's family and then to arrange for the operation and bring her to this country.
"I wasn't doing this for any type of recognition," Dodd said. "I just wish more people would do things like this. It's not impossible. I don't think anything is impossible."
Marjory was born with a slight birth defect that affected her control of her bowels. Ecuadorean doctors tried unsuccessfully to correct the problem when Marjory was 6 months old, and the girl put her one last hope in "Licenciada Yvonne," the young American social worker who taught home economics to Ecuadorean villagers in 1978.
Since Dodd returned here, she began working to bring Marjory to this country for the operation, writing to Ecuador for medical records, knocking on the doors of churches and social agencies, and telling Marjory's story to anyone who would listen.
When The Washington Post reported on Dodd's efforts, an executive with the Washington-based Marriott Corp. read the article and decided to contact hotel executives in Dallas. Marriott was opening a new hotel at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and a public relations firm decided to make Marjory the guest of honor.
The girl traveled to Dallas with her father and an aunt, where Marjory and Dodd had a tearful reunion. "She gave me a big hug and a kiss when she came out," Dodd recalled. "And her father just kept saying 'thank you, thank you,' and that he didn't know how to repay me."
"She's terrific," said Linda Harris, a hospital spokeswoman. "Everyone here just fell in love with her. She smiles beautifully. She's a very special little girl."
The girl and her family received air travel to this country courtesy of Ecuadorian Airlines and American Airlines. A doctor at Children's Medical Center in Dallas performed the operation free of charge. Officials of the Ecuadorean embassy in Washington, who also read the story, pitched in to help, speeding up the processing of the family's visa and sending officials to meet them in Miami.
And Dodd's church, the University Park Church of the Brethren, and her office, the Spanish Speaking Community of Maryland Inc. (La Communidad), donated money for the girl's post-operative care.
"It was excellent," Dodd said. "it was the best week of my life."