A 16-year-old British girl who was born with a misshapen face and enlarged tongue that prevented her from even talking now has a photo album's worth of her smiling face at her senior prom thanks to the generosity of strangers.
Katie Meehan, from the Fellgate area of Jarrow, in South Tyneside, England, was born with cystic hygroma, a condition in which fluid forms a mass on the head and neck, according to her local newspaper, the Shields Gazette.
The condition was so severe, the paper reported, that Meehan was left with cysts in her mouth and doctors told her family their daughter would never be able to speak. With that in mind, the Gazette launched a fundraising campaign in 2000 to give the family the funds needed for surgeries to reduce swelling in Meehan's mouth and tongue and allow her to live a more comfortable life.
That single appeal resulted in more than $90,000 in contributions from Meehan's neighbors and friends, as well as complete strangers. It also drew the attention of Ian Jackson, who agreed to operate on Meehan.
The first surgery, performed in 2000 at a London hospital, took more than five hours and involved cutting open Meehan's left cheek and tongue. A second surgery followed in 2001, followed by a third two years later.
Now, 12 years after her first surgery, Meehan has a bright future, celebrated at her first prom, where she donned a pink dress and smiled alongside her friends and classmates.
"The prom was fantastic, it was great to see all my friends dressed up and looking lovely," Meehan told the Gazette. "We had a delicious three-course meal, too. I couldn't eat all of it, but I had a good go."
Meehan still needs one more surgery to repair the inside of her mouth, but her mother said the family plans to let her enjoy being just a teenager first.
"We're not dashing in to it," Meehan's mom, Dawn McIntyre, told the paper. "Katie is a happy and confident girl, so there's no rush. We're going to concentrate on her education first."