Craniofacial deformities are rarely life-threatening, but in the case of a little Egyptian girl born with two mouths, doctors didn’t expect her to live. Yet, despite all odds, this brave little girl is resting at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles and she is expected to make a full recovery.
As a mother to a child that was born with a cleft lip and palate, I understand the shock that a parent can feel when they first see their child – but I also knew what to expect before he was born because his cleft lip was detected in an ultrasound. This was not the case with little Rokaya. According to her father, Tamer Mohamed, “The X-rays, the ultrasound didn’t show us how her face is going to be. But we are going to fight to change her life.”And fight they did!
Dr. William Magee Jr. founded the program Operation Smile – a program dedicated to helping families all over the world that are born with cleft lip and palates – helped fund the family’s trip to America as well as the surgery. Other non-profit contributors included Mending Kids International and the Children of War programs.
Ironically, it was Dr. William Magee Jr.’s son, Dr. William Magee III that discovered the plight of little Rokaya. Dr. William Magee III, medical director of international programs in the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery and his team have conducted more than 100 cleft surgeries on children from more than 50 different countries. And while he and his team had never seen a case like this one, he felt that they could save this little girl’s life.
“We’re very well-experienced in terms of bringing in children around the world for these surgeries. We thought we could do an excellent job and get her home safely. She’s done quite well, better than we anticipated,” said Dr. Magee.
But it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. This was a very unique case – quite possibly the only one of its kind. Little Rokaya had two full mouths, each with an upper and lower jaw.
“We spent a lot of time planning the surgery, but we made some final decisions on how to go about it while in the operating room. The face is made up of multiple pieces, so it’s like pieces of a puzzle. The cool thing is that we were able to use all of those extra pieces in Rokaya’s face,” Magee told reporters.
Like many children born with clefts, this will not be Rokaya’s only surgery but the work that has been done by Dr. Magee and his team will enable local doctors in Egypt to conduct any needed surgeries in the future. Reportedly, she is recovering well, but she will remain in the U.S. hospital until she is well enough to fly home.
Please keep little Rokaya and her family in your thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks and months. Recovery can be a long and difficult process, but her life is saved. For that, there are no words. Wishing the family all the best!
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