A young girl from Belize is recovering in Knoxville after a life-saving surgery.
Eleven year old Catarina Ishim endured a grueling 40 hour surgery earlier this month to remove a tumor from her face. It was the size of a watermelon.
Following a few setbacks, her grandfather is grateful for her prognosis.
"Every day is different, every day is changes, every day is improving," Juan Ishim said. "When we came here, she had a big tumor, which is in very pain, in critical condition. But so far today, the big tumor has gone out, she's very much happy, and she's doing very well."
Just over a week after surgery, Catarina is now painting and writing, things previously impossible.
"To look at her face now is amazing, after one week. It's just so surprising how good it looks. She's 11 years old, kids heal a lot faster than us grownups do," said Dr. Rick Glover.
The Knoxville-based pediatrician worked with the Morristown-based ministry, Hearts of Christ, to bring Catarina to the United States
Glover said there were a few setbacks. The initial skin graft didn't take, and an additional surgery was needed.
Doctors also learned the tumor's pathology was different than originally thought, so chemotherapy is needed to make sure the cancer doesn't return.
"She'll be in the hospital probably about another week, and if all goes well she'll come back to our house, we give time for all of this to heal up and get back to normal, and then we'll start the chemotherapy," Glover said.
Through it all, Juan credits Catarina's prognosis to the medical teams in Belize and Knoxville, and the power of prayer.
"It is amazing that God is so great," Ishim said. "I thank all my brothers and sisters in Christ, pastors who are praying for Catarina, are praying for me. I feel the love, I feel the touch of God."
Removing the tumor cost Catarina her eye and nose. Doctors hope to have her home to Belize cancer free in five to six months.