HAITI: When Larry O’Reilly returned to Haiti in 2012, he was excited to see the school girl he'd taken under his wing. But O'Reilly was shocked at the sight of Hennglise Dorival. The tumour on her face had returned.
Hennglise Dorival, after surgery
The previous year, O’Reilly, who is on the board of directors for an American auto parts company, had visited Dorival’s school and noticed a growth on her face. O’Reilly set up doctor visits and, eventually, an appointment to undergo surgery to remove the ameloblastoma. Although the rare tumour is non-cancerous, according to the Mayo Clinic, it is very aggressive and can be deadly if its expansion cuts into vital organs or stops airflow.
O’Reilly returned to the US after Dorival’s surgery, thinking his good deed had been completed. So seeing her enlarged, disfigured face for a second time was shocking. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on?’ It looked like she had kind of been punched,” O’Reilly said.
The doctors in Haiti’s capital city had not successfully removed all of Dorival’s tumor and it had returned. O’Reilly began fighting through red tape to get Dorival to America to seek more medical attention. She had no passport or birth certificate, was medically uninsured, and many hospitals were hesitant to take on a patient under those circumstances, especially knowing the tumor-removal procedure would be high-risk.
As O’Reilly fought for Dorival in the US, the tumour grew to roughly the size of two grapefruits —about 4 pounds in weight.“I couldn’t give up on her,” O’Reilly said. “I knew it would be fairly tragic for her if something didn’t happen.”
Finally, O'Reilly found an advocate in Operation Smile, a nonprofit that performs cleft lip and cleft palate surgery to impoverished children around the world. While Dorival wasn’t suffering with a cleft lip, Operation Smile CEO Dr William Magee understood that without treatment, the now-16-year-old would die. He agreed to perform the surgery.
“She would have suffocated in the next six months, as [the tumor] would have completely obstructed her air flow,” Magee said.
Dorival and her mother were flown to the US at the end of last month in order to prepare for surgery at Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters in Norfolk. On April 28, Magee and a team of medical experts went to work on the tumour. After a 12-hour procedure, the tumor had been removed. O’Reilly is confident it will not return.