Story by Jennifer Francis, LEAP Haiti Team Member
Physicians working with LEAP on this trip set the record for longest surgery of the trip thus far with an 8-hour operation on 2-year old Fernando. Shortly after Fernando was born, a growth began to develop on his upper-left neck, the result of an abnormality in the lymphatic system.
The boy’s condition, called lymphangioma, resulted in a continually growing mass that at the time of the operation had expanded from the floor of his mouth to the middle of his neck. The mass was comprised of several sacs that filled the entire area of the neck, adding pressure on the structure of the neck and risking damage to critical nerves and arteries that control the boy’s tongue, swallowing, lip movement, voice, and gastroenterology system.
The main nerves and arteries of Fernando’s neck were running either through the mass or right up alongside it, requiring Drs. John McClay, John Wood, and Steve Orten to carefully work around the nerves to remove it from the boy’s neck without damaging them. Without the surgery, the boy’s growth would have continued to expand into his neck and upper chest, making it increasingly harder to remove, blocking the airways and causing breathing and swallowing issues.
Fernando’s mother Sherly took him to several doctors in Haiti throughout his life – a Haitian doctor, a Cuban doctor, and even an American doctor – none of whom were able to operate due to the dangerous location of the mass. The LEAP team had tried to facilitate Fernando receiving his surgery in the United States because his father lives in New York, but unfortunately, Fernando and his mom were not able to get a medical visa, despite LEAP’s help and Dr. McClay’s handwritten letter to the Haitian embassy pleading his case. As the LEAP team followed him, Fernando’s case was delayed due to a lack of radiological imaging of the growth and limited throat specialists.
When Dr. McClay met pediatric ENT Dr. Wood, he was confident that he was the perfect specialist to partner with him to repair Fernando’s condition. Dr. McClay attributes the timing of the events to the Lord and knows His timing was behind everything coming together to make Fernando’s surgery possible on the team’s current visit to Haiti. Thank you to these three surgeons who truly made a difference in this young boy’s life!