“The Happiest Girl on Earth” (Ariana’s Update)

Beautiful Ariana has been in our program since 2016.

Always smiling. Always positive!

Everyone who meets her falls in love. Ariana is 10 years old and she has Down syndrome.

She’s so sweet that our fieldworker calls her ‘The happiest girl on earth”.

Her mother is a vendor, and her father works as a waste collector. Together they make barely enough to get by.

Ariana’s parents recently noticed Ariana was having trouble walking. Concerned, they took her to her doctor who ordered x-rays. They received some devastating news.

Ariana had severe atlantoaxial instability (abnormal, excessive movement of the joint between the first two vertebrae in the spine).


AAI (Antlantoaxial instability) is not rare: it occurs in children with Down syndrome (10-30%) and symptomatic AAI may reach up to 1-2% of all children with Down syndrome. However, symptomatic AAI can be so serious that all athletes with Down Syndrome at the Special Olympics receive neck X-rays before being allowed to compete.

Symptomatic AAI, such as Ariana was diagnosed with, results from subluxation (excessive slippage) that is severe enough to injure the spinal cord, or from dislocation at the atlantoaxial joint.

Without immediate surgery, Ariana would likely have become paralyzed or even die.

The surgery was so costly, her parents had no way to afford it on their own. To date, this is the most expensive surgery Maya’s Hope has ever assisted with.


We started raising money through our fundraisers on Facebook and Instagram.

It was a very tense time for her parents and for everyone who knew Ariana. She had had a bad reaction to a sedative the week before and her nails had turned blue. She bravely endured those days leading up to surgery.

Brave Ariana

Our fieldworker Maria visited every day.  Her doctor gave her books and coloring pencils. Someone kind at the hospital gave her an early Valentine’s day card.  She flashed her smile at everyone.

Little Ariana enjoying a gift on Valentines’ Day

Then, on February 11th, something truly amazing happened.

A very special donor fully funded her surgery.

It was a miracle.

Our facilitators were asked to prepare 6 bags of blood for her surgery.

We anxiously waited for news.

That morning, our fieldworker Maria wrote “Just a little update about our Ariana.. Surgery done last night……successfully by God’s grace ..she’s still in the ICU,..but the doctor messaged me that our patient is doing great..conscious and active…but they have to let her sleep more ….”

When she woke up, Ariana asked for food. Porridge!

We knew our sweet girl was going to be just fine.

When she saw Maria, she lifted her hand to wave with a little knowing smile. Her mother was told to massage her arms and legs and to allow her to sit up supported.


In mid-march, she was discharged.

Maria announced: “The happiest girl on earth is finally home!

Ariana’s work was not finished. Her healing had just begun.  She would need weekly therapy and her therapy sessions would start as soon as the sutures were removed. She received a special antibiotic to speed up her wound healing.

Several weeks later Ariana’s wound was still healing.  She went for her check-up – her wound was still oozing. Her doctor said it was a deep cut but would gradually heal. Her sutures were removed and rehabilitation would start a month later. Ariana was eager to walk and play with her little sister.

Ariana starts back on her schoolwork as she waits patiently for her body to heal

In April, her Doctor decided that Ariana would have a teleconsultation instead of a face-to-face check-up due to the surgery of COVID 19 cases in Manila.

Ariana’s medical team making her laugh by gesturing ‘Love!’ and making little hearts with their hands

In addition, a cervical open-mouth X-ray was scheduled to ensure that the implants rods and screws were in the right place with no signs of loosening after the surgery.

This was a crucial sign of a successful surgery.

Thankfully the screws remained tightly clasped and no other remarkable issues were seen.

On the way to the hospital for her X-ray, Ariana and her Mom stopped for a treat

Finally, in June, another miracle happened.

Ariana walked to her own Check-up! 

The wound had fully healed and her brace could be removed once in a while. Her weekly therapy sessions were done and she could practice at home. She would have a check-up every 3 months until fully healed.


Congratulations to the team and to all who supported and continue to support Ariana on her journey!

Ariana and her parents are eternally grateful, as well as the entire team at Maya’s Hope.

Ariana’s Mother helps her take those first tentative steps

All thanks to the generosity of all her supporters and to that special Valentine who, in February, decided not to wait!

Ariana and our fieldworker, Maria


by: Maria-Joelle Morris