Manasses and Caroline Braga, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, would have done anything to save their little girl’s life. The tumor on their daughter’s face kept growing larger and larger, and not one doctor in their country was able to help.
The rare and aggressive benign tumor, called a myxoma, was more than just disfiguring.
The tumor was eating its way into 3-year-old Melyssa Delgado Braga’s jaw and pressing into her airway, causing a host of eating and breathing problems.
Without treatment, Melyssa likely would have died a slow death from malnutrition and suffocation. Her parents made a desperate plea on social media for a medical professional to save their daughter’s life, hoping that their video would land in front of the right set of eyes.
Miraculously, the video reached the eyes and heart of American doctor, Dr. Celso Palmieri Jr., assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. He stumbled upon the Braga’s plea while reading news from his home country — Brazil.
With that, Melyssa and her family made the improbable journey to America, where the child would receive life-saving treatment from some of the kindest, highly skilled physicians in the country.
“As I was reading more about her story, I realized our department could probably help her, and particularly Dr. Ghali and his department,” Palmieri told CNN of his colleague, Dr. G.E. Ghali. “I’ve seen him helping people so many times, so I took a screenshot of the child, and I texted it to him.”
Ghali told PEOPLE that Melyssa’s condition was dangerous and “heartbreaking.” The weight of the tumor prevented Melyssa from holding her own head up, she could scarcely manage to swallow, and labored to breathe.
“Her tongue was pushed all the way back to her throat,” Ghali expressed. “It was just a matter of time before this thing was going to suffocate her.”
In Dec. 2016, Melyssa woke from a successful surgery to remove the tumor and reconstruct her mandible.
Upon seeing their daughter’s new face for the first time, both parents were overcome with tears of joy.
The operation would have cost around $400,000, in addition to the cost of housing, but the Louisiana medical community rallied around the Braga family in an amazing way. Dr. Ghali arranged housing for the family, and rallied his colleagues to donate their time and talent.
“All of the procedures were donated, everybody did everything pro bono and the hospital and healthcare system donated their space and equipment, ” Dr. Ghali explained. “I looked at it as our Christmas gift to this little girl and her family.”
Melyssa will need additional surgeries as she matures, but she can put her worrisome past behind her.
“I am grateful for everything the doctors here have been able to do for my daughter and in only a short month,” Melyssa’s emotional father, Manasses Braga, expressed.
Hopefully, this little girl will be able to live a long, happy life.
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