Surgeons create woman's new face
A MUM who lived with a life-threatening facial mass has been given a new chance at life - after doctors cut away half of her FACE.
Jennifer Hiles suffered from AVM or arterial venous malformation, which leads to abnormal connections between the arteries and veins in her face.
The rare condition causes hemorrhaging – which could have killed her at any time, but Jennifer is hoping that her latest surgery has removed it forever.
Jennifer spent eight weeks with saline-filled tissue expanders under the skin of her forehead and cheek – which were inflated every week to allow new skin to grow.
Now Jennifer has had the balloons and the AVM removed and her new skin patched over – and she couldn’t be happier with her new face.
Jennifer, 29, said: “When I first woke up from surgery and I was in the recovery room I actually felt so good that I didn’t feel like I’d had the surgery at all and I had to ask a doctor by me what happened.
“I asked him to take a picture of my face and I was so happy because my entire face was just white and it looked AVM-free and I just couldn’t believe it was me.”
When Jennifer was born her family initially believed her facial deformity was the result of a birthmark – but it quickly worsened.
Jennifer was around 12-years-old when she was diagnosed with the AVM and has had numerous unsuccessful surgeries throughout her life to remove it.
The condition meant that she has faced a lifetime of bullying and unwanted stares.
But now she is hopeful that the recent surgery will give her a better quality of life.
Jennifer said: “The tissue expanders were just like breast implants but in my face – like a big balloon with saline inside.
“I don’t know if I’m ever going to look normal; I don’t want to look perfect, just normal.”
Jennifer travelled with her husband, Dustin VanOverschelde, 27, and their two children, Marlina, seven, and Kiah, five, from her home in South Dakota to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York for the surgery.
The tissue expanders were removed during major surgery on May 18 and Jennifer spent the following four months under close supervision of doctors, undergoing a total of six smaller surgeries over that time.
Dr Milton Waner, one of the surgeons, said: “The surgery went exceptionally well. I’m very happy, so when she’s healed up she’s going to look very good.
“She faced a life of huge problems - she has a husband she has two beautiful children and we’ve now been able to give her a chance to live a normal life.”
Despite the successful surgery, the healing process did not go as smoothly.
The skin on Jennifer’s right cheek began to die, leaving more scarring than expected, and the AVM began to grow back between her nostrils and under her nose.
Jennifer said: “When your skin is literally dying on your face it’s really scary. I would look in my mirror 100 times a day just to see what’s changing and then just kind of pray, just hoping that it would get better.”
Jennifer will need many more cosmetic procedures in the future to thin her nose and repair the scarring.
Doctors predict the AVM will continue to grow back – but they should be able to manage the regrowth and Jennifer is no longer in danger of dying from a hemorrhage.
Dustin said: “I just hope that she’s happy with all of the surgeries and how she looks in the end – I just want to have a healthy wife.”
Jennifer added: “I’m happy with where I’m at right now with all the progress, just to see how far I’ve come makes me so hopeful for the future.
“I just hope that all my next surgeries go as planned and the scars all fade and one day I can just walk into a room and have people see me for me and not my condition all the time.”
Jennifer is currently raising funds to help pay for further surgeries. If you would like to donate please go to www.gofundme.com/jenniferhiles