Thank you for giving me a second chance

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Modjeska pre- and post-surgery.

“I am very happy and doing really well.

To everyone at Children First Foundation, donors, supporters, volunteers and staff, and, of course, all the doctors and medical staff, I am so honoured and blessed to be someone that you helped.

You gave me a second chance, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. Thank you for everything you have done for me and my family.”

This message we recently received from Modjeska couldn’t make us happier.

Many of you may remember her as a young woman who was with us during 2011.

Over the last five years, Modjeska has been the Operations Manager of a manufacturing company in the Philippines. She loves her job and the opportunities it has presented. Modjeska is planning on undertaking the CPA examinations, a milestone that she’s always dreamt of completing.

While today Modjeska’s life looks full of promise, ten years ago, before her life-changing surgery, this bright young woman’s fate took a major twist.

As the eldest in a family of nine in the Philippines, Modjeska’s life was challenging, but it looked hopeful. Studying accounting and working part time to support her family, at 18 years of age, Modjeska soon became her family’s primary breadwinner. She had much to look forward to when things suddenly took a turn, and she found a lump in her jaw.

A biopsy revealed ameloblastoma, a rare tumour that develops in the jaw. Sadly, due to the family’s financial circumstances and the lack of specialist facilities in the Philippines, the tumour was not removed. Over the next six years, the tumour kept growing and overtaking Modjeska’s beautiful face.

“Living in the Philippines is hard. It is a developing country; you have to work extra hard to survive. On top of that, having a medical condition that affects your physical appearance, makes it ten times harder.

I faced so much discrimination. People looked at me in a way that made me feel so bad about myself. I was spiralling into a deep depression,” explains Modjeska.

By January 2011, the mass had enlarged enormously. Modjeska had no option but to give up work and her studies.

Eventually, the tumour grew so big; it weighed one kilogram. It was around this time she came to the attention of plastic surgeon, Mr James Leong, who was volunteering at an Interplast Australia clinic in the Philippines. He referred Modjeska to Children First Foundation.

It was around this time she came to the attention of plastic surgeon, Mr James Leong, who was volunteering at an Interplast Australia clinic in the Philippines. He referred Modjeska to Children First Foundation.

Working with our in-country support, Australian nurse Val Smith-Orr, we quickly pulled out all the stops to get Modjeska to Australia for surgery. Modjeska required the sophistication of a highly skilled surgical team, in a world-class facility. Thankfully, Mr Leong and his team at Dandenong Hospital came swiftly to the rescue.

With a surgical team of 15 lead by Mr Leong, the surgery took 12 hours to complete. 23cms of fibula bone from Modjeska’s leg was used to reconstruct her jaw, and dental implants were also fixed at the same time.

Modjeska post-surgery with her mum, former Children First Foundation CEO and now Patron, Margaret Smith OAM and her surgeon Mr James Leong. Photo credit: Mark Wilson.

Over the next few months, Modjeska recovered at The Retreat and underwent significant dental work at the Alfred Hospital.

“The surgery made such a major difference to my life. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually”, reflects Modjeska.

Modjeska asked us to leave you with the following message:

“For anyone who thinks that there is no hope, my message to you is that please don’t lose faith, because miracles do happen.

Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for being part of my miracle. I hope and pray that you are safe, especially with what is happening right now due to the virus. My very best wishes and prayers to you all.” 

Watch this video of Modjeska’s story.

If you’d like to help more young people like Modjeska access surgery and treatment that will transform their lives, please donate today.

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