Local doctors help save teen from Belize

March 5, 2010 8:34:40 PM PST
Luigi Troches, 16, of Belize is breathing easier now, after doctors at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital performed a six hour operation last week to save the boy. It all started when Luigi and his mother met Dr. Howard Krein, and ENT doctor at Jefferson who specilizes in facial plastic surgery. Dr. Krein was in Belize on a medical mission.

"I walked in and sitting there was Luigi with his mother sort of hunched over, couldn't really breathe, mouth open, sorting of gasping for air," Dr. Krein said.

He discovered Luigi had what is called a Juvenile Nasopharyngeal Angiofibroma. It's a large tumor that was growing in the back of Luigi's nasal cavity.

The tumor is rare and benign but as it grows it can cause massive bleeding, affect vision, or as it was in Luigi's case it can start to block the airway. Before surgery, Luigi had to keep his mouth open to breathe and his voice was garbled and muffled. he also said he wasn't able to smell or taste for at least two years and he had to sleep sitting up.

The family tried to find help in Belize and Guatemala, but the medical resources just aren't there.

And without surgery, Dr. Krein says Luigi would have died, "He either would have asphyxiated or he would have bleed to death."

Through a translator, Luigi's mother Roselia Arroyo, said "She prayed to God and asked God to open doors for her."

Dr. Krein opened that door. Doctors at Jefferson specialize in removing these types of skull-based tumors. He helped the International Hospital for Children to arrange to bring Luigi to Philadelphia, where a team of surgeons donated their time and expertise to remove the tumor and with no incisions. Using special tools, Dr. Krein along with Dr. Marc Rosen and Dr. Jim Evans performed the surgery through Luigi's mouth and nose.

Just days later Luigi says he feel good. He can smell and taste and breathe without problems. His mother believes meeting Dr. Krein in Belize was fate. Luigi is just thankful.

"I want to thank Dr. Krein and all the doctors who helped me," he said.