Global outpouring of support to International Kids Fund makes operation possible at unprecedented speed

Medical team readies for approximately 12 hours of complex surgery on Dec. 14 at Holtz Children’s Hospital

MIAMI (Dec. 13, 2005) – Raising $95,000 for a complex operation seemed an insurmountable task for the family of a 14-year-old girl from poverty stricken Haiti. But only a month after her case was announced to the world, Marlie Casseus stands less than a day away from starting the surgical treatment she needs to get rid of the 16-pound tumor-like growth on her face.

The global media attention Marlie’s case received motivated thousands of people from across the United States and countries across the globe, such as Iceland, Latvia, China, the United Kingdom and Sweden, to donate to the International Kids Fund, the charity sponsoring Marlie’s medical care at Holtz Children’s Hospital, part of the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center. The organization has reached its goal for the first surgery and continues to raise money for the subsequent operations Marlie will need to regain her face, all of them offered at charity rates at the publicly funded hospital.

“I am truly at a loss of words; I do not know how I will be able to repay the generosity of everyone who contributed to my child’s healthcare,” said Marlie’s mother, Maleine Antoine, in Creole. “When we got to this country, we prayed for a miracle, and we got one; we got the miracle of compassion.”

Also known as IKF, the International Kids Fund is a program of the Jackson Memorial Foundation that seeks to provide medical care to needy children from around the world who suffer from serious illnesses that cannot be treated in their countries. In Marlie’s case, the organization partnered with Good Samaritan for a Better Life, a grassroots charity founded by South Florida-based Haitian activists and twin sisters Gina and Ginette Eugene. It was Gina Eugene who found a hopeless and scared Marlie in Haiti and brought her to the attention of IKF.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the public’s support,” said Maria-Luisa Chea, director of IKF. “It is with the help of every single person who contributes that we have been able to help hundreds of children for whom we represent the last hope for a cure. Marlie is just the tip of the iceberg; other children who do not have medical options in their countries also need our help. We ask the public to continue their support, as we cannot turn our backs on these children.”

Complex operation for rare condition

Marlie’s tumor-like growth has been brought about by a rare condition named Polysostotic Fibrous Dysplasia, which is characterized by uneven growth, pain, brittleness and deformity of the affected bones.

The growth first became evident five years ago and has overcome Marlie’s nose and mouth, rendering her unable to eat, breathe or speak on her own. Only her eyes, nostrils and a tooth can be recognized from her severely swollen face. Of immediate concern is the pressure the growth is exerting on her left eye, threatening her sight.

Due to the complexity of Marlie’s condition, the operation at Holtz Children’s Hospital is expected to last between 10 to 12 hours and involve a team of four doctors affiliated with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine: Jesus Gomez, the maxillofacial surgeon who is spearheading Marlie’s medical care; Juan Sola, a pediatric surgeon; and Wendy Lee and Kami Parsa, oculo-plastic surgeons.

Among the objectives are the insertion of a feeding tube to Marlie’s stomach, the reduction of the growth’s mass to start forming a nasal bridge and the decompression of the area around her left eye to save her sight.

“It is important to note the first surgery will not be cosmetic; she will not come out of the operation without traces of the growth,” said Dr. Gomez. “Instead, we will aim to take care of the most urgent aspects of her condition.”

Dr. Gomez added that at least two subsequent cosmetic operations will be needed.

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