A desperate African schoolgirl has been saved by kind-hearted doctors after they removed a RUGBY BALL sized tumour – which covered more than half her face, it emerged yesterday.
Grateful Regina Addae, 13, was born with a normal face but at two weeks old her parents noticed a swelling on her left cheek which ”grew and grew and grew”.
The huge tumour – which weighed 1.5lbs – hung over her left eye, causing it to weep at least 50ml of blood every day – leaving the teen dangerously anaemic.
If left untreated, Regina would have slowly died of suffocation from the tumour as it compressed her airways in her nose and mouth.
Regina was also dangerously close to death as the growth compressed her brain – and would have eroded one of the main arteries, killing her instantly.
Her parents desperately searched for treatment from when she was three years old – but were repeatedly turned down as the operation was too high risk and costly.
But this year, well-wishers finally managed to raise the £30,000 needed for the operation and found a consultant surgeon willing to undertake the delicate procedure for free.
A dedicated team of surgeons and consultants undertook the delicate 10 hour operation on November 5 at The London Hospital in Whitechapel – removing the tumour in six fist-sized lumps.
Maxillofacial Surgeon Abigail Boys, 29, of Barts and The London NHS Trust and the Willing and Abel charity said the operation had saved the life of the keen schoolgirl.
She said: ”People would stop and stare at her and treat her as if she was less than human. Some thought it was a curse from the devil.
”It would have been fatal if she hadn’t had it treated. She was losing blood every single day from her eye and that could have slowly killed her.
”The tumour was growing into her brain and it would have killed her when it eroded her internal carotid artery, which is one of the main arteries in the brain.
”It would have been very sudden.
”It has been amazing to watch her throughout this whole process, she is such a strong character who knows exactly what she wants.
”Regina will never have a perfect face but this operation has meant that she will have life, which is incredible.”
For Regina and her parents, gold miner Stephen, 43 and full-time mother-of-four Kate, 40, the operation was a moment they had been waiting for for more than ten years.
The family had been ostracised from their impoverished town of Prestea, in Western Ghana, where locals believed the tumour showed Regina was possessed by the devil.
Regina was first spotted by British nurse Kirstie Randall, who was abroad a medical ship on the coast of Ghana in 2004 and vowed to help the keen schoolgirl.
She spent six years raising funds and enlisted the help of Maxillofacial Surgeon Abigail Boys, 29, of Barts and The London NHS Trust, who contacted Professor Iain Hutchinson, 62.
The kind-hearted Consultant Surgeon – who has worked for Barts and The London NHS Trust for 21 years – agreed to undertake the £30,000 procedure for free.
He said: ”I had sleepless nights before the operation and was anxious. I wanted everything to be perfect before we started.
”When Regina came to the UK I couldn’t guarantee that I would be able to do the operation. The tumour was actually six lumps which were interconnecting.
”It was going to be a very difficult operation because of the potential for blood loss and because of the closeness to the facial nerve which moves the skin and muscle.
”There was already a distortion to the facial bones and it was intimately wrapped around the optic nerve.
”The tumour totalled one-and-half pounds when it we removed it, which may not sound like a lot but is a huge weight to add to the face.
Stephen and Regina – who feature in an Oblong Films documentary aired on the BBC tonight – will return to Ghana to unveil her new face to her family on December 13.
The full results will not be seen for another six months, as the swelling and bruising decreases.
Her lips, nose and eyelids are finally in the correct position and her life is no longer threatened by the growth – which she asked to take home with her after the operation.
Professor Hutchinson, who works with charity Saving Face, added: ”I feel really delighted with the results, which is a rarity for me.
”It was a terrifying experience for her and caused her undoubted pain but her face will get better and better over the next six months.”
A spokeswoman for Barts and The London NHS Trust said she was ”delighted” surgeons had been able to give Regina the life she deserved.
She said: ”The maxillofacial surgeons at Barts and The London NHS Trust have earned an international reputation for achieving extraordinary results, rebuilding patients’ lives in so many ways.
”Regina is a lovely girl, and to give her the opportunities every 13-year-old should have was a pleasure.
”We wish her and her family the very best for the future.”
Regina’s incredible story will feature on the Inside Out programme on BBC London at 7.30 tonight.
Congratulations to the surgical team, Willing and Abel charity, that saved this strong and beautiful young girl’s life. CB