Shriners' Hospital Gives Little Girl Freedom Of Movement

Reporter: Shannon Samson

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

The Shrine of North America operates four specialized burn centers for children.

The closest one is in Cincinnati, a three-and-a-half hour trip for most burn victims, but a much further trip for one six-year-old girl.

Sela Betz was born in China, where a mysterious accident left her legs severely burned.

As an orphan, she didn't have access to the best medical care in her homeland. She ended up finding it here, in the United States, where she also found a home.

It was her little face that captured Betty Betz's heart. Sela may have played with a Barbie doll back then, but she truly didn't embrace American culture, until she came here.

And now Sela is just another one of the kindergartners at Good Shepherd School. But she still has special needs.

Back when Betty was trying to adopt her, she had to send Chinese officials a letter of intent, on how she planned to care for her severely burned legs. Sela's legs are disfigured so badly, Betty will not allow them to be shown. "I believe she fell into a fire somehow. She remembers bits and pieces, and she'll tell me occasionally. Both of her legs are burned all the way."

Luckily, Betty knew who to call for help, one of her realty clients, who was a Shriner.

Lee Dallas of the Hadi Shrine Temple says, "She wanted to know if she could get into the Shrine Hospital and I said, 'Betty, you just made the first step. You made the phone call.' And she said, "Well I have insurance.' And I said, 'That's not necessary.'"

Because the Shriners always pick up the tab. Just weeks after Sela landed at Evansville Regional, she was at the Shriners' Hospital in Cincinnati, having surgery and skin grafts to release contracted scar tissue so she could move more freely. Now she's unstoppable.

Betty tells us, "If I hadn't known about the Shriners, or the work that they do for kids, I wouldn't have the privilege to be Sela's mom. That's what made me decide that I could take on this child, because I knew that she would get the help that she needed."
Dallas says, "I'm five-foot-four, if that tells you anything, but when you sponsor a child like this, you become twelve-foot tall."

As Sela grows, she may need more surgery, but her mom knows when that day comes, she'll be in good hands once again.

The scar tissue on Sela's legs won't grow with her. So if she has a significant growth spurt, she'll have to go back to Cincinnati for more surgery and skin grafts. And, once again, it will be free of charge.