Media Release – Life changing surgery completed for Eman

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Sixteen year old Eman Tabaza has returned home to Gaza, her appearance, life and future completely transformed, thanks to the combined efforts of Australian surgeons Tony Holmes and Tony Pennington, Mercy Private Hospital, Emirates Airline and Children First Foundation.

Eman has had three major surgical procedures in Australia – one procedure that was unexpected, and one with complications that were revealed on the operating table.

Eman was born with a complex facial cleft caused by a genetic neural tube defect.  Neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain and spine.  She had a seven centimetre space between her eyes, half a nose and a hole in her skull resulting in protruding brain matter.

Children First brought Eman to Australia for the first time in 2004 when she was eight years old. Craniofacial surgeon Professor Anthony Holmes performed the first stage of facial reconstruction in an eight hour operation at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.  Knowing the bone he used to form her new nose would not grow, the plan was for Eman to return to Australia in a few years, after she had grown, for treatment to be completed.

In February 2011 Eman returned to Australia with four other Palestinian children, for the second stage of her craniofacial surgery. But when planning this surgery, Professor Holmes found that abnormal tissue had formed at the base of her spine due to the birth defect that caused her cleft.  Professor Tony Pennington removed this tissue during major surgery at Mercy Private.  Once Eman had recovered from this surgery, Professor Holmes was then able to proceed with surgery to rebuild her nose.

It was in the operating theatre that Professor Holmes discovered the next complication in Eman’s care – an abscess had slowly developed in her frontal sinus.  Once more surgeons removed the front of her skull, removed the abscess, then rebuilt the skull again.  During the same procedure they used a rib to reconstruct her nose.

Eman is now a confident, beautiful young lady, with a great sense of humour and always smiling.  She’s making plans for the future – she wants to be a pilot, start a Foundation to help other children and to visit China – not sure in which order!

After her final appointment with Professor Holmes in May 2012, Eman returned home courtesy of flights provided by Children First principal sponsor Emirates Airline.

Read Eman’s story in The Age

Eman’s story featured in The Age on June 8, 2012. You can read this story on The Age website.