Clutching her baby for the first time since the Haiti earthquake, Marie Miracle Seignon’s smile – and middle name – says it all.
The 26-year-old broke down in tears and cried “I thought she was dead” as she was reunited with eight-month-old Landina in London.
Ms Seignon gave up hope that her daughter survived after the hospital where she was receiving treatment for burns in Port-au-Prince collapsed during the disaster in January.
Landina was plucked from the rubble and flown to Britain for treatment after a charity was unable to find her family.
But the mother was eventually tracked down six weeks ago and, following DNA tests, was flown to the UK for an emotional reunion.
Speaking via an interpreter after they were reunited at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Ms Seignon cried: “I thought she was dead, so my feelings were very, very strong. But when I saw her I was amazed. I couldn’t believe she was alive – this is a very happy moment.”
Landina was in the hospital in Haiti after receiving life-threatening burns during a fire at her family’s home in the slum area, charity workers said.
She was in intensive care at the hospital when the quake struck, killing some of the nurses caring for her.
Landina then underwent surgery to have an arm amputated after being relocated to another hospital in Haiti.
She was evacuated to London after she came to the attention of British surgeon David Nott, a specialist from London.
Her badly burnt skull was operated on at Great Ormond Street Hospital after she was flown over to the UK by charity Facing The World.
Meanwhile, her mother was tracked down in Bizoton.
Facing the World, Landina’s temporary legal guardian, arranged for a passport and visa in order for Ms Seignon to visit Britain.
Ms Seignon added: “I want to thank everyone involved in saving my daughter.”
When asked whether Landina would now rejoin her in Haiti, the mother added: “I think many things about the future. Who knows what will happen.”
The charity, which specialises in craniofacial reconstructive surgery for children from around the world, covered the baby’s medical costs and is trying to raise money for her ongoing treatment.
The charity worked with a Channel 4 news team to locate Landina’s relatives after family documents were buried in rubble.
The charity is hoping to raise £120,000 (€145,000) to secure Landina’s future.
Sarah Driver-Jowitt, who runs the charity, said it had not yet been decided when or how she would return to her family’s home in Haiti.
“Making her safe requires funding,” Ms Driver-Jowitt said. “It’s been a long journey with lots of false leads as well as good ones.”
Craniofacial surgeons David Dunaway and Simon Eckles have been leading her treatment and recovery since she was flown to the UK.
Mr Eckles, based at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, said: “Essentially mum thought that Landina had died because there was another baby of a similar age there and she was told Landina had died…That was not the case.
“She was under the rubble for about 48 hours before someone heard her cries. The team at Great Ormond Street really looked after her well. She had infections, she really needed lots of care.”
The magnitude 7.0 quake which struck in mid-January killed more than 200,000 people and left more than one million people in need of aid.
Haiti was already the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation before the earthquake hit.
:: Donations to help finance Landina’s care can be made by visiting the Facing the World website.