Friends for Life
Seven-year-old Reksa and four-year old Lyly arrived with their mums at the Retreat in early May. Both girls were referred to us by a new referral partner Cambodian charity, Khmer Sight. The team at Khmer Sight had been seeking help for the girls for some time, and were able to support us locally with getting visas and other paperwork including arranging the families’ flights to Australia
As you can see, Lyly and Reksa both have conditions that have resulted in large growths on their faces. It was initially thought that they both had Neurofibromatosis – a genetic disorder causing benign tumors to grow on nerve endings throughout the body. Not long after their arrival, the girls made quite a splash featuring in a segment on Nine News. It was clear that Lyly is a born performer – giving the cameras a thumbs up, dancing and singing into the microphone on the trampoline. However, in a quieter moment she shared with the reporter that other children “chase after me and call me big eye” and that she “just wants to be better.” Reksa’s mum expressed her thanks and hopes that her daughter’s condition might improve “just a little bit”.
Reksa was only at the Retreat for a few days before heading off with her mum to Adelaide. Our volunteer team there were quick to welcome them into the fold along with strong support from the local Adelaide Cambodian community.
Initial tests with Walter Flapper, a specialist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon from the Australian Craniofacial Unit in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, discovered that Reksa’s condition was not as expected. Her growth was caused by a vascular malformation which meant that her surgery would be more complex than had been originally thought.
Reksa stoically underwent two surgeries in a just a few weeks. Due to this unexpected change in her treatment, she was still in hospital when Lyly and her mum arrived in Adelaide. Both generations are great friends and have provided a great support to each other.
Lyly had her surgery as planned under the watchful eye of Mark Moore, Head of the Australian Craniofacial Unit. Her original diagnosis was correct and as such her surgery was more in line with what was expected. She was of course very swollen and sore after surgery, but the initial outcome looks good. In addition to removing much of the growth on her face, surgeons were also able to repair areas of Lyly’s skull that had been damaged.
Both families returned to Cambodia together in mid-July. The girls will be reassessed for any future treatment that may be required after they have had time to recover. The swelling from big operations like these will take some time to go down, and only once that has occurred can further assessment be made. It’s likely that any follow up treatments will be able to be done locally, so we may not meet these lovely girls again in person. However, we will keep in touch with them and ensure that they receive whatever follow up care is needed.