A 14-year-old Haitian teen will be able to smile and speak for the first time in years now that she is finally free of a massive tumor-like growth that had engulfed her face, doctors said Friday.
Marlie Casseus was recovering in intensive care after a second surgery in which doctors at Jackson Memorial Medical Center in Miami removed the remains of a 16-pound mass from around her mouth and jaw Thursday.
“I can say that this is a complete success,” said Dr. Jesus Gomez of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, one of the surgeons involved in the nearly nine-hour operation. “She will be able in the future to move her jaw. She is going to recover all the capabilities to swallow and speak.”
Marlie suffers from a rare form of polyostotic fibrous dysplasia, a nonhereditary, genetic disease that causes bone to swell and become jelly-like. The growth began five years ago, and eventually prevented Marlie from eating, breathing or speaking on her own, doctors said. By December, only her eyes, nostrils and a single tooth were recognizable in her severely swollen and distorted face.
“Today I look at her and I see the face I remember from her as a little girl,” Marlie’s mother, Maleine Antoine, said through an interpreter.
Doctors removed much of the mass from the upper portion of Marlie’s face last month. During the 17-hour operation, doctors rebuilt the interior of her nose and inserted metal plates to reconstruct Marlie’s lower eye sockets.
Doctors on Thursday cut open Marlie’s lower lip, removed the remaining mass — about the size of two large fists — and inserted a titanium plate to recreate the joint that allows her to open and close her mouth, Gomez said.
Postoperative photos showed Marlie, though still swollen from surgery, with a more clearly defined nose, mouth and jawline.
Marlie needs at least two additional reconstructive surgeries to re-center her widely set eyes and reconstruct her nasal bridge, as well as teeth implants, Gomez said.
The Haitian nonprofit Good Samaritan for a Better Life helped bring her to the United States in September. The doctors have donated their time.
The hospital’s International Kids Fund, which seeks to provide medical care for needy children from around the world, is asking for donations to continue Marlie’s care.