Now, doctors are planning for the next round of surgery on Oct. 10, which will replace the bone that the first surgery took away from Lai's lower jaw. Lai is currently missing about three-quarters of her lower jaw, and to help replace it, doctors will use a technique that involves harvesting stem cells from her bone marrow, which will then be used to regrow the bone needed to reconstruct her jaw.
"The most difficult part of the treatment is already done," Gomez said during the press conference on Monday. "While this upcoming surgery may involve some risk, it is not going to be as risky as the first one."
If the surgery to reconstruct Lai's jaw on Oct. 10 is a success, Marx said that a subsequent operation to add dental implants could take place as early as April 9, 2009.
"If we can get dental implants in, she'll be able to chew and eat close to normal."
The best news, Marx said, is that the tumor will not recur. He added that Lai will likely be able to return to Vietnam in November, though the hospital is "trying to arrange for her to return for dental implants and her final physical therapy" some time in the future.
For now, a tracheostomy tube is still in place in the girl's neck to help her breathe. Marx said doctors will probably be able to remove this tube for good during the girl's next surgery.
"We are only keeping it in because of safety reasons," he noted. "If you take that out, she can drink anything you can drink and eat a soft diet."
And Lai is now taking the first steps toward socializing with others.
"She's extremely happy; she's a different person," Gomez said. "Once we remove the trachea tube, we expect that she will be able to start saying some words.
"A lot of her childhood was missed because of this. She is now more outgoing, happy every day, and she has an ability to interact with others."
The final step, Marx said, is getting Lai into the classroom she has yearned to join.
"Now we are looking to make that final step," he said. "To me, that would be the final benchmark -- for her to be able to go to school in Vietnam on Nov. 15.
"What we would like to see her do is get back into the lifestyle her village in Vietnam offers -- for her to be able to blend in," he added. "If she is able to do what her brothers and sisters do -- go to work, have a family -- that would be a great achievement. It's all possible."