LIMA, Peru – Giggling and blowing kisses to photographers, Peru's 19-month-old "miracle baby" was presented to the public Tuesday by doctors six months after surgery to separate her fused legs.
Milagros Cerron, whose name means "miracles" in Spanish, was born with a rare congenital defect known as sirenomelia, or "mermaid syndrome." Her successful operation in June captured the interest of the world.
Affectionately called "the little mermaid" by Peruvians, Milagros wore a pair of tiny blue jeans Tuesday as she played among dozens of brightly colored plastic balls.
Dr. Luis Rubio, head of a team of surgeons who operated on in June, said he was pleased with the progress Milagros had made, but cautioned that she still needed 10 to 15 years of rehabilitation and more operations before she could lead a normal life.
She has been attempting to stand up, Rubio said, but is unable to maintain stability because she has no sockets for her hip bones. Initially after the operation, he had said he hoped to see her walking within two years, but on Tuesday he was cautious about making predictions.
"I dream of that day," he said. "We are going to do everything humanly possible to conclude what nature has not finished," he said.
Rubio said one of the most gratifying aspects of having helped Milagros is the "multiplying effect" the publicity about her surgery has had in helping to encourage parents to bring in children with congenital deformations for treatment.
He said his contact with Milagros has changed his life forever.
"There is the Dr. Rubio before the little mermaid and the one after the little mermaid," he said.
Milagros' parents are from a poor village in Peru's Andes Mountains, and the Solidarity Hospital has given a job to her father Ricardo Cerron so that the family can remain in Lima.
"I'm happy and proud of her because she is overcoming her problems," Cerron said. "When she sees me, she says, 'Papa,' and that is a happiness that I feel in my heart."