A 1-year-old Queens girl born with a giant life-threatening tumor on her face will undergo surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital this week to remove the huge mass, which, if left untreated, could cause the child to suffocate.
Sandy Diaz, of Corona, has a lymphatic malformation, an accumulation of defective lymph vessels and lymph fluids, enveloping her right cheek and chin. If not treated, the malformations continue to grow.
In the case of Diaz, who is already fed through tubes because she can't eat through her mouth and has a tracheostomy to help her breathe, the tumor could eventually completely shut off her airway.
(Watch Telemundo-47's exclusive interview with Diaz's mother in Spanish in the video below.)
Doctors first noticed the mass on a sonogram when Diaz's mother, Maricella, was five months pregnant. They determined the tumor was non-cancerous but advised Maricella Diaz to terminate the pregnancy. Maricella Diaz, who has four other children, decided to keep the baby.
Sandy Diaz was born on June 17, 2015, and when she was just 19 days old, the doctors tried to treat the growing mass by administering special medication through tubes. They tried this three times, but it made the problem worse, according to Lenox Hill Hospital.
While the doctors wanted to try the treatment once more, Maricella Diaz refused. She took her daughter to see Dr. Milton Waner, a world-renowned expert in the treatment of pediatric facial malformations, when the child was 4 months old. After examining the little girl, Waner determined that surgery to remove the entire mass would be the optimal treatment, but he wanted to wait until she was a bit older to perform the procedure.
Waner, whose Vascular Birthmark Institute now operates out of Lenox Hill Hospital, will perform the life-saving surgery on Sandy Diaz Wednesday. A special computer program that maps facial nerves will be used to minimize the chance of facial paralysis, the hospital said.
According to the hospital, the procedure will allow Sandy Diaz to live a normal life.