Three year old with enormous facial tumour given life saving op by US doctors for free!
A three-year-old Brazilian child with an enormous rare facial tumour has undergone a remarkable life-saving operation by doctors in America, it has emerged.
Surgeons at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Centre in Shreveport, donated their services for free, removing the aggressive growth from Melyssa Delgado Braga’s face in an eight-hour operation in December.
The child, from Sao Paulo, is now recovering in hospital.
The procedure has transformed Melyssa’s life as she is now eating, talking and laughing for the first time.
The tumour, diagnosed as a myxoma, which is typically benign and non-cancerous, was described as one of the largest of its kind by surgeons.
“It was almost like another head attached to her jaw,” said surgeons.
It weighed a whopping five pounds (2.5kilos) after it was removed.
A titanium plate has been implanted in Melyssa’s jaw as part of the reconstructive surgery. The plate will be replaced as she grows.
The operation was made possible by Brazilian doctor Celso Palmieri, an assistant professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the LSU hospital. He saw online reports about Melyssa’s plight and decided to help.
Dr Palmieri said: “I was reading a Brazilian website last year when I came across the story and picture of the Melyssa. I said ‘holy cow’, I think we can help her.”
Melyssa’s parents, Carol, 21 and Manassés, 25, had created a Facebook page called “Ajudem a Melyssa” (Help Melyssa) in November last year. They also recorded a video appeal.
Their aim was to get their daughter to the United States, where they believed she would receive life-saving treatment.
Medical care in Brazil had been unsuccessful and Melyssa’s family knew the child’s chances of survival were running out. The swelling was getting bigger every day. It was affecting Melyssa’s eating and draining her tiny system.
Palmieri continued: “I took a screen shot of the story and sent a text to my boss Dr Ghali and asked, ‘do you think you can do something for this child?”
Dr. G.E. Ghali, chairman of the LSU Oral and Maxillofacial department, who has performed similar surgeries on other international patients, indicated he could.
To ensure Melyssa, her parents and her one year old brother, Anthony, were able to stay in the US while she received treatment, Ghali turned to the Willis-Knighton Health System, a non-profit health care organisation in Shreveport. The charity agreed to fund the family’s living and hospital costs.
Mum Carol, said: “We were desperate to save our daughter’s life. Surgeons in Brazil told us our Melyssa was going to die because the treatment they wanted to give her would be too much for her weakened immune system.
“We were told her only chance of survival was by seeking help in the United States. We knew the costs were going to be huge so we started the Ajudem a Melyssa campaign to raise money for flight tickets and for staying in the country.”
The initiative has raised thousands of pounds but the family still need more because Melyssa’s condition requires ongoing surgery for at least the next ten years while she grows.
Melyssa’s family discovered the benign tumour in 2014. They noticed a lump on her neck and took her for hospital exams. Medical specialists at the Santa Casa de Misericórdia Hospital in São Paulo diagnosed the tumour but were unable to treat it.
The tumour was eating away at the little girl’s face and within two years had destroyed all the jaw bone on the right side. She was left with a small amount of bone on the left and some teeth.
Palmieri contacted Melyssa’s family through social media and within a month of reading the report, the little girl was in Shreveport preparing for surgery.
The initial procedure, performed on the 20 December took more than eight hours and was a success. Ghali and other surgeons involved donated their services.
“The transformation in the child’s appearance is remarkable,” said Ghali.
“This is a very rare tumour in this age group. A myxoma is a very aggressive type of tumour. It is typically benign and non-cancerous,” he explained:
“If you look at pictures of before surgery you can see the tumour has pretty much eaten away her entire jaw, from one side to the other.”
He added the disease had ‘displaced and pushed back her tongue to the point that she was unable to eat and swallow, and she was on the way to being a malnourished child.’
Once the tumour was removed Melyssa regained full use of her tongue.
The swelling was also affecting Melyssa’s breathing and she had a problem keeping her head still because it weighed over five pounds.
Doctors described the growth as ‘almost like another head attached to her jaw.’
“This was an enormous burden and a good percentage of Melyssa’s weight as she only weighs 25 pounds in all,” added the surgeon.
Parts of the tumour had also started dying off as the blood supply could not keep up with the rapid growth.
Palmieri said: “Melyssa’s case was particularly special because of the size of the tumour. This one was by far the largest we have ever seen.”
Doctors inserted a titanium plate to rebuild the child’s lower jaw and she has started to eat properly for the first time. Melyssa is able to chew on the left side of her mouth where a few teeth had not been affected by the swelling.
Lisa Babin, LSU Health’s director of public affairs, said the cause of myxoma is unknown.
Without the surgery, Babin said, Melyssa would have needed a feeding tube and was about a month away from her breathing being blocked.
She said: “Patients generally die a slow, progressive death from the combination of malnourishment and blocked airways.”
The titanium plate will need to be replaced as she grows, doctors said.
“We don’t have a plan for when that will be. But we will keep seeing her and following her up,” said Palmieri.
“But now we have hope,” said dad, Manassés.
“We can’t believe how generous doctors in America and the charity have been. We are so grateful for everything that has been done for our daughter and all within less than a month,” he said.
The family will be returning to Brazil within the next few weeks but Melyssa’s journey to better health will continue for much of her young life as will the fundraising.
To donate to help Melyssa: https://www.vakinha.com.br/vaquinha/ajudem-a-melyssa