Angela Winter caught a plane for her native England Wednesday, and she's thrilled that she'll be sharing Christmas with her mother, father, brother, sister and grandparents. Since she came to Utah in September of 1993, the 18-year-old has seen her father once, the others not at all.

Winter made the news when Immigration and Naturalization Service - with nudging from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah - decided to let her stay in Utah to undergo surgery for chronic lymphodema, which had caused her left leg to retain fluids and swell to four times it natural size. Had she not received the surgery in Utah, England's doctors planned to amputate the leg.INS granted her "humane parole" and two surgeries have improved the condition of the leg, she said.

"The bottom part of my leg - the big monster part - has reduced a lot. My life is not the same as it used to be, although the top part is not reduced. I keep it down with a compression pump. They couldn't do it because of the number of arteries and the importance of circulation."

Besides reducing the lower leg by paring away the skin and much of the muscle, Winter said doctors also taught her how to maintain it so that it will never again get so large.

Infection is a secondary factor in lymphodema. The tiniest thing - even a dog hair - can get into cracks in the skin and cause major problems. The girl has learned to prevent that and "I get around very well now."

Her "new look" will be a total surprise for her family, she laughed. "We were pretty emotional at the airport (when her parents left). I haven't seen my mum for a year. And I saw my father in May, before my second surgery, so they don't know what to expect."

She first decided to stay in the United States - and ran into immigration snags - when her family was in Utah to visit her uncle and aunt, Dan and Christine Flitton in Kearns. It was going to be the final family vacation before she had her leg removed. Her aunt persuaded her to see if Utah doctors could do anything to save it. She has stayed with the Flittons for more than a year.

The decision to stay was life altering, she said. But it's time to go home to Leeds.

"Hopefully, I'll get a job and learn to drive. I was going to do that here but never had time between surgeries. I want to see old friends and have fun. I can't wait to see my family."