May 15, 2014— -- A 16-year-old teenager is getting used to her new reflection after doctors were able to remove a 4-pound tumor from her face.
Hennglise Dorival, who lives in Haiti, had lived for years with the large tumor that had grown so large in recent years that it even moved her eye out of its socket and threatened her breathing.
Doctors identified the tumor when Hennglise was 12, but local medical officials were unwilling to do extensive surgery on the teenager without better equipment and a more thorough diagnosis of the tumor. Without treatment. Her tumor started to grow, which caused extensive damage to Hennglise’s jaw and musculature.
The tumor was so large that it even moved her eye out of place, rendering her nearly blind on one side.
Hennglise’s mother, Yvrose, took the teenager out of school as the tumor grew and she rarely left the house. When Hennglise did go in public, she used a scarf to cover her face.
Members of Operation Smile, a charity that provides free surgery to repair cleft palates, were eventually alerted to Hennglise’s condition and raised funds to bring her and her mother to America for surgery.
“All these kids we’ve seen. They get so ostracized in their communities,” said Dr. William Magee Jr., director of Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Surgery at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughter in Norfolk, Va., and CEO of Operation Smile. “They were in Port-au-Prince and people were unbelievably cold and rude. Once they left for the U.S., they said everyone is so nice here.”
Magee operated on Hennglise earlier this month and said the tumor was the largest of its kind that he had removed.
“The tumor weighed four pounds but didn’t’ penetrate her [skull], thank God,” Magee said. “Cells developed into abnormal structure that becomes this mass. It was dense and thick and heavy. It was amazing that this poor girl had been able to survive.”
It took doctors 12 hours to remove the tumor, which had grown so large that it threatened to block her airway if it kept growing at the same rate.
“Probably within six months it would have occluded her airway,” Magee said. “It’s a tumor of a dental origin. [In the United States you] would have it excised when it was relatively small. It grows to this monstrous stage because people weren’t sure what it was.”
Hennglise still faces a few surgeries, including one major surgery to fix her jaw. Since the tumor originated from her jaw, doctors had to remove part of her lower jaw bone in the surgery. Hennglise is now only eating soft or liquid foods.
Below is a picture of Hennglise Dorival before and after her surgery. Viewer discretion is advised.
But despite the obstacles, the teenager is optimistic about her recovery. Magee said even the morning of the surgery Hennglise decided to stop wearing the scarf to cover her face.
“She took it and threw it on the couch and said, ‘I won’t need it anymore,’” Magee said.
Now slightly more than two weeks after the surgery, Magee said Hennglise is recovering and becoming more outgoing with her new face.
Through a translator, Hennglise’s mother, Yvrose, told an Operation Smile spokeswoman that she hopes their family and other people will be more accepting of Hennglise.
“Surgery has changed our relationship because I am more comfortable around Hennglise,” Yvrose Dorival said. “The largeness of her face made me and others uncomfortable. Before the operation, Hennglise was scared to go out and socialize. But not anymore.”
Magee and other Operation Smile representatives said that Hennglise’s mood has changed tremendously since the surgery and she appears to be more outgoing toward her doctors and nurses.
“I’m happy. My face is smaller,” Hennglise told an Operation Smile representative through a translator. “My mouth is different, but in a good way. I understand it will get better with time.”