FOX UNDERCOVER (MyFoxBoston.com) -- While she was still adjusting to life as an amputee, Marathon Bombing survivor Karen Rand came across a picture of a teenage girl from El Salvador with her own tragic story.
The girl, Melissa Estefania Salinas, lost one leg and injured the other when drag racing cars crashed into her.
Despite her own losses – Rand not only lost her leg but her friend, Krystle Campbell, died from one of the blasts – Rand decided to join efforts already underway to help the girl.
Today, those efforts paid off. Rand met Logan airport and saw her off to a hospital, where Rand had helped arrange for what will probably be months of care, all of it free or donated.
It was an emotional meeting for the two, who had never met before.
"You'll be OK now," Rand told Salinas just after they met. "We'll take good care of you."
Rand and her boyfriend, Kevin McWatters, took on the cause of helping Salinas through a chance encounter.
They were shopping for barstools at Boston Barstool & Contract Seating in Somerville when owner Maurice Quiroga struck up a conversation with Rand. He noticed her prosthetic leg, and asked her about it because he was trying to help Salinas, whose mother knew a friend of his.
Together, Rand, McWatters and Quiroga spent months making arrangements for the trip. They secured a promise of a donated prostheses from Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics, the same place that helped Rand with her new leg.
FOX 25 viewers helped, too, contributing thousands of dollars after reporter Mike Beaudet aired a story in December about the effort to bring her here.
Salinas thanked FOX 25 and our viewers in comments she made just after landing.
"She's very happy and she's very thankful that everybody has helped our out so far, including you guys. Thank you for being here," said Quiroga, translating for Salinas.
Salinas is joined by her younger sister as well as her mother, who also spoke after landing.
Her grateful mother, Claudia Pleitez, said: "(I) never thought this day would happen. It's a great opportunity today that we're here today to her dream and everybody's dream here is to see her walk again," she said through a translator.
As if the trip wasn't difficult enough for the teenager, she also met her father at the airport, whom she hasn't seen since she was two years old. He lives in the U.S.
Still, Estefania maintained her composure under the media's gaze, even mustering to tell Rand "Thank you" in English for the bouquet of flowers she gave her.
From Logan, Melissa was driven directly to Shriners Hospitals for Children-Boston, where Dr. Philip Chang will oversee her care.
"Part of the challenge Melissa faced is the resources needed to care for her properly were not available to care for her in her home country. And we're blessed that through the generous giving of the Shriners that we will be able to give the medical care that she needs without cost to her," Dr. Chang said.
Shriners Hospitals provide medical care to any child who needs it, regardless of the family's ability to pay.
Dr. Chang said the care she needs will probably take months, including treating a bone infection in her remaining leg.
If it had remained untreated, Dr. Chang said the result could have been disastrous.
"Unfortunately, there's a very good chance she would have needed an amputation of her other remaining leg," he said.
Chang is hopeful that, after antibiotic therapy and other treatments, Salinas can be fitted with a prosthetic leg in three to four months.
Rand and McWatters plan to be there for Melissa during her treatment in Boston, doing whatever they can to make her comfortable.
But the whole effort has also been good for Rand.
"At the beginning I thought this fell on us at a time when I'm still trying to get better myself," she said. "Once I got involved I couldn't turn my back on it. There was no way I was going to say, ‘I can't do this, I'm not going to do this' after she really needed that help.
"And it ended up being the best thing I ever did because it really helped me through the winter, the whole helping somebody else actually really helped me heal. So she was actually really good for me too," Rand said.
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