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Man with large facial tumor waits for a miracle

Man with large facial tumor waits for a miracle

Thursday, March 22, 2012, 09:44 GMT+7

Half of a 30-year-old Vietnamese man’s face has been consumed by a massive tumor that covered his entire right ear and disfigured part of his mouth, making it difficult for him to breathe and eat for years.

First surgery

When Le Hoang Em was born in a remote area in the Mekong Delta’s Dong Thap province 30 years ago, a small tumor that looked like a birthmark appeared on his right cheek. The family thought the small clump of tissue would soon disappear. Instead, it has grown uncontrollably ever since.

He was the fourth son in a poor family with 5 children. His father, Le Van Cho, 58, and his mother Tran Thi Thu, 57, are hired laborers.

At the age of one, his parents took him to the Oncology Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, where he was treated with radiotherapy but the doctors failed to diagnose his condition.

In 2005, when the tumor covered almost half of his face, Hoang Em and his mother decided to go to the Oncology Hospital again to see if a surgery could be the answer to his problem. However, the hospital refused to admit him because the tumor was too big and the cost of the surgery too high for them to afford.

While at the hospital, they accidentally met Ngo Thi Tuyet Mai, a teacher, who came to the hospital for a medical examination. Feeling the pain and discomfort suffered by the poor young man, the middle-aged teacher convinced them to give her his medical record so that she could send it to those able to treat him.

After their chance meeting at the hospital, Mai went around the city, knocking on door after door at several major hospitals, seeking a surgery for him.

“A few weeks after I met them, I contacted some hospitals in HCMC like the Otorhinolaryngology and Odontostomatology to ask them to operate on him, but they said they couldn’t. Fortunately, when I met Dr. Luu Ba at Cho Ray Hospital, he said he could treat the case,” Mai recalled.

Dr. Luu Ba and his colleagues held a consultation and diagnosed Em with hemangioma, an abnormal buildup of blood vessels in the skin or internal organs. They agreed to perform an operation on him.

In May, 2005, Hoang Em was admitted to Cho Ray Hospital for the surgery.

Three months after the surgery, the scar healed but the tumor still increased in size.

In May 2011, Hoang Em’s mother informed Mai over phone that his son incurred an excessive bleeding from the tumor that it lasted an hour.

“I felt a surge of panic upon hearing that and immediately asked the family to bring him to Ho Chi Minh City for more medical examinations,” Mai said.

Mai took him to Cho Ray hospital to see Dr. Luu Ba but unfortunately he had retired. Dr. Nguyen Duc Khue, Chief of Thoracic Surgery Department at Cho Ray hospital, said his tumor was inoperable and asked her to transfer him to the Odonto-Stomatology where he was diagnosed with ossifying fibroma, a benign, slow-growing, central bone tumor, usually of the jaws. The doctors told them there was nothing they could do with the case.

Yet, Mai refused to give up hope and tried to contact many of her acquaintances to find ways to help him, including Nguyen Vinh Hanh, a Vietkieu who has been involved in many charitable activities in Vietnam.

“Hanh told me he knew a similar case that has been treated successfully in the U.S. Picking up the information, I sent Em’s medical record and CT scanner to the U.S and have been anxiously waiting for the result since,” Mai said.

New hope

Hoang Em’s hope for surgery flared up again when his case was put before Sam-Ottawa, who runs a virtual medical miracle network based in Canada. Sam referred the case to Dr. McKay McKinnon, the American plastic surgeon who recently performed three major surgeries for three consecutive days to save local tumor patients Nguyen Duy Hai, Thach Thi Sa Ly, and Kieu Thi My Dung.

Not long afterwards, Sam received words from Dr. McKinnon who wrote: “I am certainly willing to review the patient cases you referenced.”

Despite the deformed face, Em says he is not the subject of ridicule and scorn from those around him, except some children. Children nearby are not afraid of his tumor but kids from neighboring areas often burst into loud screams when seeing his face.

The strange disease and the resulting difficulty in his eating and drinking do not reduce the young man to defeatism and paralysis. Em has tried to earn some money to support his aging parents by drying rice grains for his neighbors every time harvest season comes.

Bui Van Tuong, a neighbor, says: “Due to his poverty, Em is willing to do whatever people want him to do. Many people show deep compassion to him and often hire him to dry rice grains.”

Em says his only wish now is that someone could operate on him to remove the tumor so he can learn a trade to support his family.



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