ZEGA CORBETT
Tom Gannam  /  AP
Mawarni Zega, 8, from Nias Island, off the western coast of Indonesia's main island of Sumatra, plays with Kathy Corbett, executive director of the Missouri chapter of Healing the Children, at the Youthbridge facility May 5 in St. Louis.
updated 5/19/2005 6:37:06 PM ET 2005-05-19T22:37:06

An 8-year-old girl whose home was damaged by an Indonesian earthquake has successfully undergone surgery on a birth defect to remove an unsightly bulge between her eyes that seemed to swallow up her nose, a surgeon said Thursday.

During the 12-hour operation, doctors removed the mass — caused when a gap in the skull allows brain membranes to protrude — and used a bone graft from Mawarni Zega’s skull to rebuild her nose.

Her face “will look dramatically different from what it did,” said Dr. Jeffrey Leonard, pediatric neurosurgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. If the defect were left untreated, potentially dangerous complications such as meningitis could occur.

Mawarni has a breathing tube and has not spoken since the surgery, Leonard said. But in the days leading up to the operation, she appeared thrilled about the prospect of being rid of the deformity.

“I would not see America if I did not get this surgery,” she said.

The earthquake that hit Nias Island, off the western coast of Indonesia’s main island of Sumatra, came three months after the stronger quake that triggered the Dec. 26 tsunami that killed at least 175,000 people. The March quake killed about 900 and left thousands injured and homeless.

An elaborate effort was made to bring the girl to the United States. A donor paid air fare and she and her mother had been given a free place to stay in St. Louis.

Mawarni may still need “minor touchup surgeries” for her face and also will have another surgery to remove a kidney stone that has enlarged her right kidney without affecting the organ’s normal function, Leonard said.

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