Teen from Honduras returning to West Michigan for college after life-saving surgery

Posted at 9:19 PM, Aug 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-23 00:36:05-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A teenager who came to West Michigan as a child, gaining a second lease on life has returned on a new mission.

Elvin Vindel came to Grand Rapids for life-saving surgery when he was just 6 months old through the Healing the Children organization.

In a twist of fate, he was accepted into the international program at Calvin College, making it possible for him to come back to Grand Rapids to get the education he dreamed of and reunite with those responsible for saving his life.

As a baby in Honduras Vindel's mother was told he needed surgery not available in their country or he would die.

Through Healing the Children, his mother made the tough decision to send him to Grand Rapids at just six months old where he was cared for by Pat and Ron Williams.

A strong bond was formed as the Williams cared for Vindel, supporting him through an extremely invasive surgery lasting more than 20 hours.

“It`s like it`s your own child,” Pat said. “You know our job is to love him when he’s here, to give him the courage and the wonderful love to go through the surgery.”

After having Vindel for five months, sending him back post-surgery was very difficult for the Williams.

They never knew if they would see Vindel again though they kept in touch with his mother in Honduras.

But, three years ago Vindel came back to Grand Rapids for a 'gratitude trip' to meet those responsible for saving his life.

“Getting to know that they love me so much and they have the pictures of me at their home, it’s an amazing experience,” Vindel said.

That`s when he discovered Calvin College and their programs for aiding international students.

With the dream of one day attending Calvin, Vindel became salutatorian of his high school and was accepted into the freshman class in the fall of 2014.

“I’m excited about the classes, I’m excited about just even going in a bicycle all around the campus, I’m excited about winter, I’ve never seen snow,” he said.

As Vindel plans his next four years in Grand Rapids, he’ll stay with the Williams during breaks and holidays.

“I think we`ll have a bond forever, it’s not something that goes away,” Pat said.

Vindel will be studying Civic Engineering at Calvin.

You can find more information on that organization that helped Vindel on their website.