MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – For nearly three years, oceans have separated Steven Hamilton and his daughter Rihanny. Hamilton lives on the small Caribbean Island of a Roatan and Rihanny lives here in Mt. Pleasant with plastic surgeon, Dr. Jack Hensel and his wife Michele.
Hamilton asked the couple to bring his daughter to the United States so that she could get lifesaving medical treatment.
Michelle explained that they met Rihanny’s father when he was their tour guide when the visited Roatan three years ago.
Hamilton told with the couple that the girl was chronically sick.
“He told us that Rihanny had been so sick that she almost died twice,” Michele said.
Michelle said she and Jack immediately committed to doing what they could to help the child.
“When we found out that she had been sick, we said ‘well can we take her to the doctor to find out what is going on?’ He said that would be a blessing”.
The Hensel’s took Rihanny to a doctor on the island. It did not take long for them to understand her condition.
“Jack looked at the lab work and said, “Michele, I think she has sickle cell.”
There was no treatment available on the island. The family said they had few options.
“The doctor asked us if we wanted to help this little girl. He said ‘there is nothing we can for her here, you have to get her to the states.’ This was August of 2016; October 29th I flew over and we both flew out at 2 pm together–so, she has been here with us ever since.”
Jack and Michele are Rihanny’s legal guardians now. The 9-year-old is thriving. She is in school. she has friends, and she is happily blended into an extended family.
Michele said Rihanny’s life in the United States is critical to her survival.
“(Steven said) If you have to send her back she will die early… it is heartbreaking for us, we can’t get her insured.”
So, they pray and pay for Rihanny’s medical expenses out of pocket. The cost is in the thousands of dollars. And because there is no cure of Sickle Cell, they are committed to caring for Rihanny for as long as she needs them.
“This is a permanent thing because sickle cell doesn’t go away.”
Through an unexpected set of circumstances, they have become caretakers to this child. They were in the right place at the right time and willing to help.
When asked if they feel as if they are heroes they said the real hero in this story is the person you don’t see, Rihanny’s father, Steven Hamilton.
“I’ll tell you who the hero is, her father, she (Rihanny) thinks so, too. So, that is who I would actually call the hero.”
The Hensel’s say they have been able to get insurance for Rihanny. They are also in the early stages of establishing a Sickle Cell Clinic in Roatan.