Thursday, February 16, 2017

A three-year-old child with an enormous and rare facial tumour has undergone a life-saving operation by US doctors.

Melyssa Delgado Braga had what is believed to be one of the largest myxoma’s ever recorded – weighing 5lbs.

Doctors described the benign growth as ‘almost like another head attached to her jaw’.


It had displaced her tongue to the point that she was unable to eat and swallow – leaving her on the brink of being malnourished.

However, surgeons in Sao Paulo, Brazil, warned that she would likely die because the treatment would be too much for her weakened immune system.

But after becoming aware of her case thanks to a Facebook campaign, medics at the Louisiana State University (LSU) donated their services for free.


They removed the entire growth in an eight-hour procedure in December, allowing her to eat, talk and laugh for the first time in her life.

Her mother, Carol, 21, 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 US.


‘We knew the costs were going to be huge so we started the campaign to raise money for flight tickets and for staying in the country.’

Doctors at the Santa Casa de Misericórdia Hospital in Sao Paulo diagnosed the benign tumour in 2014 after noticing a lump on her neck.

However, they were unable to treat it – despite it having destroyed all of the jaw bone on her right side.

She would often struggle to keep her head still due to the sheer weight of the tumour.


It had displaced her tongue to the point that she was unable to eat and swallow – leaving her on the brink of being malnourished (pictured with her mother, Carol, 21)

Parts of the tumour had also started dying off as the blood supply could not keep up with the rapid growth.

To seek medical assistance, her parents created a Facebook page called ‘Ajudem a Melyssa’ (Help Melyssa) in November.


Aiming to get their daughter to the US, where they believed she would receive treatment, they also recorded a video appeal.

Brazilian doctor Celso Palmieri, an assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at LSU saw online reports about Melyssa 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 case was particularly special because of the size of the tumour. This one was by far the largest we have ever seen.’

He contacted Melyssa’s family through social media and within a month of reading the report, she was preparing for surgery.

Surgeons in Sao Paulo, Brazil, warned that she would likely die because the treatment would be too much for her weakened immune system – forcing her parents to start a Facebook campaign to try and raise attention to her (pictured together in the US before surgery)


But after becoming aware of her case, medics at the Louisiana State University donated their services for free. They removed the entire growth in an eight-hour procedure in December

The initial procedure, which was funded by a charity in Shreveport, was performed on December 20 took more than eight hours and was a success.

Doctors inserted a titanium plate to rebuild the child’s lower jaw and she has started to eat properly for the first time.

Once the tumour was removed Melyssa regained full use of her tongue, and her breathing was restored.

Dr Ghali, who was involved in the procedure, said: ‘The transformation in the child’s appearance is remarkable.

‘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.’

‘This was an enormous burden and a good percentage of Melyssa’s weight as she only weighs 25lbs in all.’

Without the surgery, she would have needed a feeding tube and was about a month away from her breathing being blocked.

Patients generally die a slow, progressive death from the combination of malnourishment and blocked airways, they said.

Her father, Manassés, said: ‘Now we have hope. We can’t believe how generous doctors in the US 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.’

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.

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