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Operation Smile: Doctors remove 4-pound tumor from girl’s face

this is a discussion within the Everything Else Community Forum; In 2011, Larry O’Reilly traveled to the Caribbean nation of Haiti, to aid those who had been devastated by the massive earthquake that had occurred a year earlier. During his stay, O’Reilly visited a small Baptist school in the mountain ...

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Old 05-13-2014, 10:40 PM   #1
 
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Operation Smile: Doctors remove 4-pound tumor from girl’s face

In 2011, Larry O’Reilly traveled to the Caribbean nation of Haiti, to aid those who had been devastated by the massive earthquake that had occurred a year earlier.

During his stay, O’Reilly visited a small Baptist school in the mountain village of Bahon, where he handed out gifts, such as toothbrushes and soccer balls, to the young students. But while visiting with the children, one student in particular stood out to him: a young girl with a large mass protruding from her upper jaw.

“We were going from classroom to classroom, and I noticed her and nobody else seemed to pay much attention to her,” O’Reilly, vice-chairman of the board of directors for O’Reilly Auto Parts, told FoxNews.com. “…Her face was swollen; it wasn’t too bad, but it was disfiguring. It was already a real problem for her.”

Curious about this young girl, O’Reilly asked the school’s pastor who she was and if she had ever received any medical care. The girl’s name was Hennglise Dorival, and at 12 years old, she had never been to a doctor – not once.

Upon hearing this news, O’Reilly decided he would try to help Hennglise in any way that he could. After around three months, he arranged for her to be flown to Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, where she underwent an X-ray and consulted with a physician to figure out what was wrong.

There, she was diagnosed with an ameloblastoma – a rare, noncancerous tumor that often develops in the jaw near the molars. Despite being benign, these tumors can spread very rapidly, displacing tissue and cutting off pathways to vital organs. Left untreated, Hennglise’s tumor had expanded into her teeth, deviating her nose to the right and elevating her right eye.

Given the extent of the tumor’s spread, doctors told O’Reilly that Hennglise would need extensive surgery.

Removal and regrowth

Through an organization called the Community Coalition for Haiti, O’Reilly arranged for plastic surgeons from the U.S. to travel to Haiti to perform reconstructive surgery on Hennglise. In a 12-hour procedure, the doctors were able to remove the facial tumor, but they informed O’Reilly there was a chance that they hadn’t captured the mass entirely.

Not thinking much of it, O’Reilly returned to the United States and didn’t travel to Haiti again for another year. When he did return in 2012, he was eager to visit that same Baptist school in Bahon – but when he arrived, he was shocked by what he found.

“We were there for a week, and the first person I wanted to see was Hennglise,” O’Reilly said. “And her face was swollen again. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on?’ It looked like she had kind of been punched. And [the pastor] said, ‘No, it’s come back.’”

Since the tumor hadn’t been completely excised during the initial surgery, it had regrown to its full size – and was only getting bigger. Determined to get rid of the ameloblastoma for good, O’Reilly realized Hennglise needed to travel to America in order to have her tumor removed completely. In the U.S., she could have a full staff of medical personnel perform the operation, as well as adequate follow-up care to help reconstruct her face.

Yet transporting Hennglise overseas turned out to be a difficult endeavor, as she didn’t have a passport or a birth certificate. Additionally, many U.S. doctors and hospitals were nervous to perform such a risky procedure on someone who was uninsured, with many believing she wouldn’t survive the surgery. For 18 months, O’Reilly worked tirelessly to make the operation happen, running into several roadblocks along the way.

“I had to say a lot, ‘No, I’m not going to give up on this little girl,’” O’Reilly said. “It just wasn’t in me, even though it would have been so easy so many times to say, ‘I’ve done all I can.’”

A greater sense of urgency

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