A 12-year-old girl from Africa can finally smile again after she had a 6-pound benign tumor removed from her jaw at a New York Hospital.
Janet Sylva’s tumor began to grow three years ago, according to her mom, Phillomena Sanyong.
Sanyong initially thought the mass would go away on its own, but it eventually caused issues with basic tasks like eating, talking and even breathing as it grew.
The Gambian mother said Janet’s personality began to change with the shift of her appearance.
"She became withdrawn from her friends," Sanyong said.
Sanyong took her daughter to a local hospital, but the facility was unable to provide treatment. Doctors there reached out to international health groups, including Healing the Children, whose Florida chapter posted Janet’s picture on their website.
That photo was seen by David Hoffman, MD, Director of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Staten Island University Hospital, who said that he would try to assemble a team to help Janet.
They eventually flew Janet to New York where was to perform the operation pro bono.
"She was literally trapped in her own body. Had this tumor been left untreated, Janet would certainly have starved to death," Hoffman said.
In a 12-hour surgery in January at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, Hoffman and his team removed the entire tumor and replaced part of her jaw using a bone graft from her leg.
"This was a girl who came to us with a scarf covering her neck,” Hoffman said. “She wouldn’t look us in the eye, and she wouldn’t remove the scarf. Now, she’s running around, playing with other children, eating and smiling. She is coming back to herself."
Her mother said she’s thrown the scarf away.