Aster Degaro, 13, is all smiles after surgeons at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York removed a 6-lb. tumor from her neck. Doctors said the tumor grew so large because she lived in a remote village in Ethiopia.
"In the United States, this would've been diagnosed, probably about 12 years ago and it would've been taken care of at that time," said Dr. Milton Waner, of Lenox Hill Hospital.
Degaro’s tumor is known as a teratoma. These types of tumors are most commonly seen in children and young adults. They are fascinating to scientists and medical professionals because sometimes they contain teeth, hair, bone, and even eyeballs. Degaro’s tumor was benign, meaning it was noncancerous, but it still displaced her jawbone and carotid artery.
"And there was probably a 30% narrowing of the trachea from just the compression already," said Dr. Lee Smith, of Cohen Children's Medical Center.
When an anesthesiologist visited her family’s village in Ethiopia, he met Degaro. The people in her village had labeled her as “evil” because they didn’t know why her tumor was growing so large. Within three years of their initial meeting, Degaro was brought to the United States to undergo the surgery. The Little Baby Face Foundation facilitated the surgery and now, Degaro has a new lease on life.
"Now I know that I am beautiful and I am healed, and I like the way I am now," Degaro said.
Degaro's father was equally impressed with the end result.
“My daughter is a very shy girl who was never able to play with friends,” he said. Noting that Sept. 11 is also New Year’s Day in Ethiopia, the emotional father said, “This is not just a new year, it is the start of a new life. My daughter can go to school and have friends…it is a new beginning.”
For information on the Little Baby Face Foundation and how you can contribute to the cause, visit LittleBabyFace.org.