A trio of big-hearted doctors is helping 3-year-old Victoria Wilcher, the Mississippi girl who was mauled by her grandfather’s pitbulls and then thrust into the national spotlight when her family was accused of perpetrating a hoax at a local KFC.
The doctors come from three states and are donating their efforts to reconstruct the face of Victoria, who lost an eye in the attack earlier this year. A Florida doctor made Victoria a prosthetic eye, a local physician reconstructed the girl’s eyelid and a Las Vegas plastic surgeon has signed on to perform a series of operations that could continue for years.
"We are extremely optimistic about Victoria's recovery,” said Dr. Frank Stile, of Las Vegas. “We continue to track her progress as her facial bones and scars continue to heal."
It was Dr. Raymond Peters, of Naples, Fla., who made and installed the prosthetic eye last month. But when doctors noticed the girl’s lower eyelid needed to be corrected in order to support the new eye, Dr. Kyle Lewis, of Jackson, made the fix with a skin graft.
There will be many more such operations for the brave little girl, but the doctors who have made her their cause say they are in it for the long haul.
“Victoria is going to have to go through at least four to five years of surgery," said Peters.
One operation in the near future will make the lid over Victoria’s good eye match the one on which Lewis operated.
"In the upcoming months, she will be arriving in Las Vegas, where her right eyelid reconstruction will help produce more symmetry of her facial structure," Stile said.
Victoria was attacked in April while visiting her grandfather. Two months later, her family claimed they were asked to leave a Jackson KFC because Victoria’s appearance repulsed customers. When word of the alleged snub got out, first on a family Facebook page, donations poured in for her medical bills. KFC even pledged $30,000.
But the incident proved impossible to document, and many began to suspect it never happened. Some of the donors who pledged a total of more than $100,000 through GoFundMe.Com requested refunds, but most seemed unwilling to hold the possible hoax against Victoria, whose injuries were most certainly real.
“Contrary to reports, a very small number of donors to the ‘Victoria’s Victories’ GoFundMe fundraising campaign have requested refunds,” the site said in a statement.
Janet Kellum, who is the stepmother of the Wilchers’ family attorney, Bill Kellum, and who has taken on the role of family spokesperson, told Fox News Victoria “is doing really well.”
“She’s back being active, playful,” Kellum said. “Back to her little, same-old 3-year-old self.”
Although there is a healthy balance being held in Victoria’s name, the doctors are offering their considerable skills for free. Money had already begun to trickle in before the alleged incident at KFC, after Victoria’s aunt, Teri Rials Bates, created a Facebook account called Victoria’s Victories.
KFC initially pledged $30,000 to the family, but because the company’s two independent investigations could not confirm the incident ever happened, and because the family declined the money, KFC gave the money to Stile’s foundation, at the suggestion of the family attorney, instead of directly to the family.
Stile hopes the money can go toward the Wilcher family’s travel and hospital expenses as their daughter undergoes a series of procedures. They are set to travel to Vegas later this year for Victoria’s third operation.
“The trust is being prepared as we speak,” Kellum said. “And until that trust is prepared and finalized and a trustee has been appointed, there can be no distributions made for anything.”
Stile is considering returning the $30,000 check KFC donated because he doesn’t want to be associated with any controversy.
“I don’t need my reputation sullied by what someone else is doing,” said Stile, who vowed to see the surgeries through no matter what. “I’m doing what I am doing independently.” He pledges to go through with the surgeries no matter what.
Matt Finn and Kyle Rothenberg are part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the program here and follow them on Twitter: @FNCJrReporters