Surgeons in New Mexico have removed a rare, football-sized tumor from the neck and upper body of a Mexican boy, capping a two-year charitable effort to get the disfigured child U.S. medical attention, a church official said on Tuesday.
The 11-year-old patient, Jose Antonio Ramirez Serrano from Ciudad Juarez, just across the U.S.-Mexico border from El Paso, Texas, was expected to remain at the University of New Mexico Children's Hospital for at least a month recovering from Monday's surgery.
The massive growth, nearly a foot (30 cm) in length and measuring about 4 inches (10 cm) wide and deep, was removed by a 25-member surgical team during a 12-hour operation that ended late on Monday, said Kristean Alcocer, Spanish ministry coordinator for the First Baptist Church of Rio Rancho near Albuquerque.
The boy remained under sedation and in intensive care following the operation, Alcocer told Reuters, adding the boy's medical bills and related expenses had been paid for through donations.
“We are so thrilled. This has been two years in the making,” said Alcocer, who was part of the effort to bring Jose to the United States for treatment.
The boy had been coping for most of his life with the tumor, which grew on the left side of his neck, shoulder and torso, Alcocer said. Such growths, called lymphangiomas, are malformations of the body's lymphatic system that create large, unsightly tumors on the skin’s surface.
Church members first noticed the child walking across a street in the impoverished Anapra neighborhood of Juarez two years ago and learned the child's family had exhausted all medical efforts in Mexico.
“Many promises were made to them over the years, but no one ever came through with meaningful solution,” Alcocer said, adding the family was skeptical about trying to have the growth surgically removed when first approached.
The child was brought to New Mexico in July 2012 under humanitarian visas secured for the purposes of obtaining medical treatment in the United States, Alcocer said.
The boy and his family are permitted to visit the country for up to 10 years under the visas, but his parents travel back and forth from their residence in Mexico, Alcocer said. The boy was staying at the homes of Alcocer and the church pastor as he prepared for the surgery.