East Texas Organization Helps Boy From Guatemala Get Surgery

It'll be a big day for a little boy from Central America tomorrow, all thanks to an East Texas volunteer organization. The group Refuge International, based in Gilmer, has arranged for Milton Caal, 7, from Guatemala to have a one-of-a-kind surgery. Volunteers have been working to get Milton the procedure for more than a year, but the surgery is something Milton has been waiting years for.

"I went to all of the hospital in Guatemala but they found no solution. What they told me is, you have to take him to the United States," said Milton's father, Elfego Caal. The 40-year-old had to leave behind his wife and seven other children to come to East Texas for a special surgery for his son.

Milton broke the femur, that is the big bone, on his right leg when he was two years old. Part of the bone became infected so doctors in Guatemala removed some of it. That made his right leg about six inches shorter than his left one. He has not been able to walk on his own since. "I feel bad for him. When Isee him I get sad. I start crying because of that, while the other kids are running," said Caal.

During a mission trip last year, volunteers for Refuge International found out about Milton's condition. They arranged for him to have surgery at Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas. "The plan is to graft the bone out of his good leg along with blood-carrying vessels that are along that and graft it over into this leg," said Refuge International Vice President Fran Grimes.

Five doctors will be operating on Milton's leg all day. After that, Milton faces six to nine months of physical therapy before he and his father can go back to Guatemala. "It would be sad to see him go but for all that we've done for him it'll be ok. He'll be with his family and that'll be ok," said Refuge International Administrative Assistant Sarah Henson.

Sarah's mother, Deborah Bell, co-founded Refuge International in 2002. That year, Deborah took a mission trip to Guatemala and saw the great need for medical care. She started the organization with three objectives: to provide health care, education, and clean water.

Milton's father says what he's looking forward to most is seeing Milton play with his seven brothers and sisters. "That's why I'm grateful to God, for this help that he's given me and to bring me here," he said.

Milton is turning eight years old Saturday. He is the second child Refuge International has arranged a surgery for. The organization says there are two other children they hope to bring over for surgery. The organization says it always has volunteer positions available.

Oralia Ortega, reporting, ortega@kltv.com