IN THE NAME OF VICTORIA

Nepal, Denmark

September – November 2010

This work was awarded with the 2011 PX3 awards, Gold Medal Feature Story and the World Press Photo 2011, 3rd Daily Life Story.

In September 2010, the Danish daily newspaper Berlingske published a photograph of an 18-month-old orphan from Nepal.

The original caption read:

“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’. The little girl was born with hydrocephalus – water in her head – which can be easily cured in the West. Here the doctors can’t help her.

Her mother left immediately after 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 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 gave way to an abundance of reactions. But one reader, 36-year-old Cecilie M. Hansen, took it one step further. Having seen the picture of the abandoned girl, she decided to travel to Nepal to find and maybe save the toddler with the big head.

Cecilie M. Hansen decided to call the nameless girl Victoria. For Victory.

With the help of a child organisation and Nepal’s leading neurosurgeon, Dr. Basant Pant, Cecilie M. Hansen managed to secure treatment for Victoria. After days of intense examination, Dr. Pant decided to operate.

The treatment was risky. Since Victoria’s condition had been allowed to progress, surgery was complicated. After draining the fluid from her head, her skull needed to be broken and remodelled to normal size. However, if nothing was done she would eventually die in pain. ‘Everyone deserves a chance of a worthy life and love from someone,’ said Dr. Pant and Cecilie M. Hansen.

Cecilie was in Nepal during the first surgery to drain fluid from Victoria’s head. Then she had to return to Denmark, her job, husband and her own one-year-old son, Sebastian. A week later, the second operation of Victoria – the remodelling of her skull – was due. Two days later 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 November 19th 2010. Cecilie M. Hansen was devastated.

But she had 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.”

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