Local specialists remove facial tumor from Haitian student

PHILADELPHIA - July 27, 2012

Daniel Smith lives with family in a very poor area in Haiti, and despite hardships, he continues his education.

And on a special trip here to Philadelphia, he tells Action News he has big dreams of working, supporting his family and traveling.

"I have to study and realize my dreams," he said.

So far, he is the only one in his family to graduate high school, and he is now studying computer science at the University of the People with help from the Haitian Connection Network, a non-profit out of Lancaster that sets up online schooling for free in Haiti.

But a medical problem is getting in the way of Daniel's dreams.

Doctors at Jefferson University Hospital say Daniel has a benign tumor-like mass on his jaw. Daniel says it's been there since he was 15.

Kristen Hertzog of the Haitian Connection Network says it was removed before but it came back and is now spreading.

"It will eventually take over his face, and the education we're providing is null and void if he is someone who cannot be employed because of a disability," said Kristen Hertzog.

Several specialists at Jefferson donated their time and skills to help Daniel. He had surgery this week to remove the mass once and for all.

Dr. Howard Krein explained that it would be a difficult operation that takes team work.

"Dr. Decidue and Dr. Taub are going to be working up at the head and neck area resecting the tumor. While they are doing that Dr. Heffelfinger and I will be down at the leg doing the harvest," Dr. Krein explained.

Meaning while most of Daniel's jaw bone will come out, they will re-construct a new one using the fibula or calf-bone.

"You have to make that straight bone into a curved bone. You do that by cutting out triangular segments and then it all kind of comes together," said Dr. Heffelfinger.

The operation took 10 hours and it was successful.

Daniel told Action News that he was grateful for the opportunity, not just for the medical help, but also to travel to the United States.

"I did not think one day I would be here, one day I will find this big opportunity," he said.

The surgery went well. Daniel is still recovering at the hospital and will be there about a week. He will stay in the United States until he is completely recovered.

Before he goes back to Haiti, he says he is hoping to see the White House, and he may get that opportunity.

Dr. Krein is Vice President Joe Biden's son-in-law, and he says he may be able to pull some strings.

Haitian Connection Network

University of the People

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