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In the Name of Victoria

In September 2010, the Danish newspaper Berlingske published a photo of an 18-month-old orphan from Nepal. The image was accompanied by a short story:

In the back room of Nepal's leading public neonatal department is a girl lying alone on a chair. She is eighteen months old and has no name - not officially. The hospital nurses call her Ghane, meaning 'big head' in Nepali. The little girl was born with hydrocephalus - also known as water on the brain - which can be easily cured in the West. Here, the doctors hadn't been able to help her.

Her mother left immediately after her birth and no orphanage will take her in. So here she is, all by herself. She can't move much, but her eyes will follow you.

A smile may light up her face when her cheek is caressed. But the doctors have little faith. If there is a future for this girl, they hope it will be mercifully short.

The story brought about a flood of reactions from readers. But one reader, 36-year-old Cecilie M. Hansen, went one step further. Having seen the picture of the abandoned girl, she decided to travel to Nepal to find and try to save the toddler with the big head.

When she first met the little girl Cecilie decided to call her Victoria - for Victory - in the hope of curing her.

With the help of a children's organisation and Nepal's leading neurosurgeon, Dr. Basant Pant, Cecilie managed to secure treatment for Victoria. After days of intense rigorous examinations, Dr. Pant decided to operate.

The treatment was risky. Since Victoria's condition had not been treated in its early stages, surgery now was extremely complicated. After draining the fluid from her head, her skull needed to be broken and remodelled to a normal size and shape. Without an operation Victoria would eventually die in great pain. 'Everyone deserves a chance to have a full life and love from somebody' said Dr. Pant.

Cecilie was in Nepal during the first operation to drain the fluid from Victoria's head. Then she had to return to Denmark - to her job, her husband and her own one-year-old son, Sebastian. One week later, Victoria's second operation - to remodel her skull - was due. Two days after she returned to Denmark, Cecilie received a text message from Dr. Pant.

"Dear Cecilie. Be brave. You tried. We all tried. It was her fate. Please try to find peace."

Victoria died from heart failure on 19 November 2010. Cecilie was utterly devastated.

But she has no regrets: "What was the alternative to my actions? What would I have done, had she been my own child? No child deserves to die unnoticed and unloved."

Mads Nissen, a regular photographer for Berlingske in Denmark, accompanied Cecilie to Nepal and documented her highly emotional journey to Nepal and the time she spent with Victoria.

Click HERE to view the Multimedia.

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