Vietnamese Teenager with one of the largest reported schwannoma tumors to receive much needed surgery

MIAMI, Fla (April 16, 2008) – The International Kids Fund (IKF), a program dedicated to helping children throughout the world overcome serious illness, today kicked off a fundraising campaign seeking the community’s support for a surgery that will remove an extremely large tumor that has severely deformed the face of fifteen year-old Lai Thi Dao from Vietnam.  The tumor, known as Schwannoma, has been growing since she was approximately three years old.  Without surgery, the tumor’s rapid growth in comparison to the rest of her organs could eventually lead to the critical closing of Lai’s throat and collapse of her upper airways.  Lai recently arrived in South Florida to receive life-altering surgery. 

Since Lai is not a U.S. resident and a public hospital cannot use taxpayers’ money to pay for her treatment, IKF is seeking the community’s support in raising $107,000 to help cover the cost of the procedure.  The ten-hour surgery will restore her ability to eat and speak and allow her full function of her neck.  Holtz’s Children Hospital of the University of Miami /Jackson Memorial Medical Center has offered to perform the surgery at a charitable rate through their partnerships with the International Kids Fund (IKF).

“Schwannoma tumors are not highly uncommon; however, the size of Lai’s tumor is extremely rare and is possibly the largest ever reported,” says Dr. Jesus Gomez, oral and maxillofacial surgeon at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center.  “Without surgery, Lai faces a life journey that will unfortunately end too soon because the rapid growth of the tumor will eventually impair her ability to breath.”

Schwannoma tumors are usually benign and unlikely to return once removed.  With an optimistic prognosis following surgery, Lai is eagerly looking forward to attending school like other girls her age upon recovery.  As a result of her tumor, Lai has never attended school and currently spends her day doing minor chores.  Even tasks, like eating, drinking, sleeping and walking are difficult.  Despite these struggles, Lai has demonstrated vigor and appreciation for life.  She currently creates beaded string curtains made with origami and knotted straws for sale as a way to contribute to her family and one day she would like to do charitable work to help those less fortunate than her. 

“Lai has spent the better part of the last decade helpless as she watched this debilitating tumor grow on the side of her face.  However, Lai’s optimism is evident in one meeting with her,” says Janelle Prieto, Communications Director of IKF.  “It’s not everyday that we have an opportunity to do something that will greatly impact another human being.  Given that Lai could not have this risky, but essential surgery in her home country, the community’s support is key to drastically improving her quality of life.”

Lai’s surgery is currently scheduled for April 29; however, she will probably require minor follow-up surgeries.