Two-year-old Ava McCulloch has a reason to smile - she's starting to feel better.
Ava was born with Spina Bifida, a neurological disorder that makes it difficult for her to walk.
"It affects nerves in the body below that point where her spinal cord was sticking out at birth, so there's some nerve damage that was done," said Ava's mother Jessica.
After doing some online research, Jessica discovered a procedure that could change her daughter's life - stem cell treatment. The procedure isn't available in the United States, so the McCulloch family took a trip around the world to China.
"They use these stem cells, which came from healthy Chinese babies, and they put them in by IV into her feet," said Jessica.
The doctors use stem cells from umbilical cords instead of embryos. Jessica said she was told not to expect any results right away - but that's exactly what happened.
"We started the treatment and the therapy, and after about the third stem cell treatment and the seventh day of acupuncture, she started crying," said Jessica.
Those tears meant that Ava was able to sense the pain for the first time. Jessica said her daughter is one step closer to walking without ankle braces.
"Now that we have seen things happen, which this isn't the end of it, more progress is suppose to come months down the road, and it's very exciting," said Jessica.
Jessica said that Ava will need to continue her therapy, and the family is trying to return to China within the next year for another procedure. Until then, Ava's smile is all the encouragement they need.
To learn more about Ava's journey, or to make a donation, you can check out her blog at www.stemcellschina.com/blog/ava.