Young Caribbean girl battles rare disease in North Texas

A young girl who doctors say had little chance of survival in her own country is now clinging to hope in North Texas.

A doctor who traveled to the Caribbean on a mission trip met Tallia Williams. Now, he and his daughter are helping the 13-year-old as she battles a rare kidney disorder.

Because of circumstances Tallia has faced, she's like a second or third grader, educationally. However, she’s determined and very brave in her fight to survive.

Technology connected the little girl and retired Dr. Steve Higgins on Halloween. He cut through international red tape in hopes of saving Tallia’s life.

Tallia is from the tiny, impoverished Caribbean Island of St. Vincent. She is battling end-stage liver and kidney failure. Higgins met her in an orphanage there while on a mission trip. While he lives in Nebraska, his daughter, Kristi Miller, cares for Tallia in Fort Worth.

"I started to examine her, and I found that she had a very enlarged spleen, which I knew was not a good thing,” Higgins explained. “Basically, they said they just needed help.”

Higgins faced a legal obstacle course. But thanks to an immigration attorney who offered to help, Tallia is in the U.S. on a medical visa.

"When she got here, we knew liver failure was the issue,” said Miller. “So through getting her diagnosis, we discovered it’s actually her kidneys causing the liver failure."

Tallia’s doctors at Children's Medical Center in Dallas say she needs surgery before she can begin dialysis. The eventual goal is a kidney transplant. She won't qualify for health insurance until she achieves a green card. The family has already spent more than $15,000 for medical expenses.

"Since she's here legally, she doesn't really qualify for any other services,” said Higgins. “She kind of falls in the cracks of where we can even get any help or resources."

In the meantime, Tallia’s wearing her first ever Halloween costume and learning a great deal about her new country. Higgins says her spirit and smile keeps them all motivated.

Tallia's prognosis is based on her doctors continuing to watch and see how she responds to each step in her treatment.

The family says they are doing all they can financially to avoid interruptions in Tallia's medical treatment. They have established a GoFundMe page for anyone who wants to help Tallia in continuing her fight.

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