Little Sandy’s surgery to remove a tumor on her face was a success, doctors said Wednesday.
The Queens toddler was rolled into an operating room at Lenox Hill Hospital around 9 a.m., and her medical team worked for eight hours to rid her of a giant mass engulfing her neck and face.
“About 95% of the mass was removed, as planned, and all the facial nerves were preserved,” said Lenox Hill spokeswoman Margarita Oksenkrug.
The little girl was born in June 2015 with the softball-sized lymphatic malformation blocking her airway and threatening her life. Attempts to drain it and collapse it with injections failed. Then the family turned to Dr. Milton Waner, director of the Vascular Birthmarks Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Waner and his team developed a plan to remove the mass using a special computer program that would map Sandy’s facial nerves and minimize any chance of paralysis. The “extended facelift incision” at the neck should leave no scarring on the face, he said.
“We have done lots of these and have very good results. We have many children who look and function completely normally afterward,” Waner said.
Sandy’s mom, Maricela Benitez, of Corona, said she can’t wait for Sandy to have a normal life
”I would love to see her walking, running, just taking clothes out of drawers and making a mess,” Benitez, 33, said. She has four older children with husband Herry Diaz.
Sandy, usually a very calm child, seemed to know surgery was getting close, Benitez said
“There is a song that my (other) daughter always plays for her, and she cries when she hears it,” Benitez said, referring to the song “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban.
“She turns to me, looks at me, like she knows everything that is going on,” she said. “It’s not like when she cries out of pain. She cries out of a feeling she gets, as if she knows what’s happening.”
Benitez said she was nervous but hopeful about the procedure.
“My dream is seeing her studying medicine and becoming a doctor. I would like her to be able to save children’s lives just like her doctor,” she said.