Canadian Boy Comes to U.S. for Life-Changing Surgery

Two-year-old Maddox Flynn is a precocious toddler who loves to laugh, run around and play hockey – he is Canadian after all. But, a severe facial deformity has led this little Edmonton native and his father to leave their home country and come to the United States for a life-changing surgery.

Maddox suffers from what is known as a lymphatic malformation, which has completely engulfed the left side of his face. Doctors in Canada were unable to perform the surgery to remove the growth due to the complexity of the procedure, so Maddox and his family looked for help elsewhere, and that’s when they met Dr. Milton Waner, the co-director of the Vascular Birthmark Institute of New York.

“I found out about Dr. Waner from a good friend who found him on the computer,” Maddox’s dad, Mike Flynn, told just minutes before his son was scheduled to go into surgery at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan. “And once I saw him, I knew right away that this was the man who was going to help to help Maddox.”

The only problem was the enormous cost of the surgery. But, with the help of the Canadian media, the family received an outpouring of support and some very generous donations. As of Wednesday, $175,000 had been collected.

“It’s just been phenomenal," Flynn said. “Once word got out in Canada, everyone came on board to help out, and now the good people of New York are helping out as well. It’s just been awesome. Everyone has been so good to us.”

Waner, an internationally recognized pioneer in the development of successful treatments for hemangiomas and vascular anomalies, described Maddox’s condition.

“Normally lymph vessels — many call them the gutter system of the body — collect all the extra fluid and take it back to the veins,” Waner told “With lymphatic malformation, the vessels don’t function, and then you get a backup of fluid, and then cells migrate into fluid, fibroid tissue grows in as well. It then becomes a very scarred, fluid-filled mass of tissue. And so this is what we’re attempting to remove.”

Waner and a team of surgeons were preparing to remove the malformation Friday morning.

“We will operate on his eyebrow, eyelid and orbit, which is the bony socket of the eye,” Waner said. "We will remove as much malformation as we can see. It’s a very delicate operation because we have to preserve all sorts of muscles and structures that move the eye.”

Lymphatic malformation is an extremely disfiguring condition and if left untreated, it will get worse and worse as time progresses, Waner added.

“It has probably already blinded him in the left eye… although we are not sure yet,” he said. “The good news is, often times when we remove these tumors, the vision comes back.”

And that’s exactly what Waner is hoping for.

“We are cautiously optimistic,” he said. “Of course there is always a degree of trepidation because these are very difficult surgeries. But I’ve done quite a few of these, and people come here because we’re the main center and I have more experience than anyone else. This is what I do.”

Maddox’s dad shares the same optimism.

“You know it’s starting to hit me now as Maddox is heading into surgery,” Flynn said. “But like I said, I knew this was the man who was going to help my son out, and that sense, I’m very confident that he’s the best in the world.”

After Friday’s surgery, Maddox will recover in the hospital until he leaves to go back home on May 28th. He’ll spend the summer in Edmonton and then make the journey back to New York in September for his second surgery with Waner.

To find out more about Maddox’s medical journey, check out the family’s Facebook page.