A Message from Madlen

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“My life is now filled with happiness.”

We love getting updates from the children who have returned home following surgery, and this is what gorgeous Madlen, from Vanuatu, had to say when she recently messaged us.

Madlen today.

Madlen was with us during 2019. As a teenager, she developed a benign tumour near her left jaw that grew to the size of a grapefruit. Not able to have it removed in Vanuatu, the tumour stripped poor Madlen of all her confidence. As the tumour continued to grow, Madlen couldn’t bear to leave her house without covering her face. She always dreamt of being an Accountant, but eventually, things got so bad, she sadly stopped her studies.

 “For the four years before surgery, I was so anxious and felt isolated. I lost hope in everything,” recalls Madlen.

Madlen’s surgery was performed at St John of God Geelong in 2019, led by surgeon Mr Ian Holten.

Madlen prior to surgery.

Mr Holten first met Madlen while he was on a medical mission with Interplast. Without specialist resources, he was unable to help Madlen in Vanuatu. Therefore, he sought the support of St John of God Hospital and Children First Foundation to bring Madlen to Australia for surgery.

A team of plastic and maxillofacial surgeons worked for over four hours to remove the tumour. They made cuts inside Madlen’s mouth to prevent scarring – and so even though she has hundreds of stitches – none are visible!

The surgery was particularly risky because doctors had to work carefully to avoid nerves or arteries. Madlen was in intensive care for 48 hours and required six units of blood transfusions.

Back to today, Madlen says that life couldn’t be any sweeter.

“I feel so happy and blessed. I have got my confidence back, I now attend our church and youth activities, without covering my face. I have resumed my studies. I feel so excited about my future and feel that I can actually do whatever I set my mind on,” says Madlen.

“The surgery was a miracle I thought would never happen. Thank you to Mr Holton, St John God Hospital Geelong , Children First Foundation and all the donors and supporters.  Your love and caring hand will always be a treasure in my heart.”

Madlen is currently completing a Diploma in Accounting and Finance. With her determination and her restored self-belief, we are sure that she will have a bright future ahead of her and will accomplish all her dreams. Good luck with everything you do Madlen!


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