ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – An 11-year-old Mexican boy who had been suffering from a massive tumor and drew international attention after U.S. officials helped him get treatment in New Mexico had the growth removed after a long surgery, a church said Tuesday.
In a statement, Kristean Alcocer of the First Baptist Church of Rio Rancho said José Antonio Ramírez Serrano underwent surgery Monday at the University of New Mexico Children's Hospital to remove the tumor from his neck, shoulder and torso area.
The surgery lasted a more than 12 hours and involved 25 medical professionals, Alcocer said.
"The road to recovery will be long, and many challenges still lie ahead for this young boy," said Alcocer, who is housing José while he receives treatment.
In July 2012, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations assisted in picking up José and his parents from a neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico — one of the deadliest cities in the world at the time because of the presence of drug cartels.
Federal agents helped the family seek care for José after First Baptist Church members saw him during a missionary visit.
After stories and images of the boy went viral, First Baptist Church officials reported a jump in donations to help him raise money for the surgeries.
José was diagnosed with venous lymphangioma on his shoulder, and he was told by doctors at the University of New Mexico Hospital that he had to undergo a series of surgeries and treatments to remove the huge fluid buildup.
José's parents have said the tumor on his shoulder and neck grew so large that it affected his eyesight. They said they were afraid it might move into his heart. With no money for medical care, the family sought treatment in Juarez and El Paso, but they did not receive any help removing the tumor, which has afflicted José since birth.
For the past two years, the church has raised money for the boy.
The plight of José drew support from New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who asked federal officials to extend his stay in the U.S. so he could continue treatment.
José still needs surgeries to reconstruct his shoulder bone and to remove excess skin, officials said.
José often talks to his parents, who visit when they can, Alcocer said.