In 2011, Missouri man Larry O’Reilly was visiting a small village in Haiti when a young girl caught his eye. The girl, named Hennglise Dorval, had a large tumor protruding from her face. O’Reilly's heart went out to the teenager, and he decided he would do everything in his power to get her some medical attention.
O’Reilly paid for the girl to be flown into Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, so her tumor could be evaluated by a medical team. There, she was diagnosed with an ameloblastoma, a non-cancerous tumor that typically develops around the face or jaw. Doctors worried that if left untreated, the tumor that had already disfigured Hennglise’s face could interfere with her breathing and eyesight. An extensive surgery would be needed to remove the tumor.
Working with an organization called the Community Coalition for Haiti, O’Reilly arranged for four plastic surgeons to come down to Haiti and operate on Hennglise. The surgeons removed the tumor during a 12-hour surgery. Despite time they put into the operation, the doctors couldn’t guarantee the tumor would never come back.
O’Reilly visited Haiti again one year later and, sure enough, the tumor was back.
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“We were there for a week, and the first person I wanted to see was Hennglise,” O’Reilly said. “And her face was swollen again. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on?’ It looked like she had kind of been punched. And [the pastor] said, ‘No, it’s come back.’”
O’Reilly said it was then he knew what he needed to do next.
"I just couldn't believe it didn't work," O'Reilly said. "For me this became a challenge. I was going to do anything to help Hennglise get a successful surgery and I knew we had to bring her to the U.S."
Hennglise was flown into Virginia Beach where Dr. William Magee led a team of surgeons in an operation. This time around, doctors removed the tumor for good. When Magee showed Hennglise’s mother a picture of the results, she nearly knocked him over in celebration.
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“I came into the waiting room afterward, and her mom almost tackled me,” Magee said. “She’s kind of stone faced and doesn’t express her emotions much, but after she saw a picture of her daughter, she almost knocked me over.”
O’Reilly was overcome with emotion when he saw Hennglise as well.
“It was emotional; I couldn’t speak,” O’Reilly said. “Right after the surgery, you kind of saw the best, because there wasn’t any swelling… When [they] took that [tumor] out and reclosed the face, you thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s what this little girl can look like.’”
Hennglise will stay in the U.S. for the next six months while doctors perform a few minor follow-up procedures. Magee said he is confident she will never have to deal with an ameloblastoma tumor again.