A World-class Collaboration

Hennglise after surgeryWhen Hennglise Dorival first arrived at CHKD in April, she wore a scarf to veil most of her face. When speaking Haitian Creole, her native language, she was barely audible. Yet, just months later, the 16-year-old has a new confidence and new goals for the future. “I want to be a nurse,” she says, her radiant smile a testament to her courage and to the medical community that came to her rescue.

Hennglise’s journey to CHKD began four years ago with a simple toothache. Her mother, Yvrose, took her to the dentist in her home of Bahon, a rural Haitian village with limited electricity. Soon after, a bump the size of a pea developed inside the young girl’s cheek. Within a year, it was the size of two grapefruits. Doctors from Boston tried to remove the growth at a Haitian hospital in 2011, but the tumor returned and continued to expand at an even faster pace.

Staff members from Project HOPE and one of their concerned donors, Larry O’Reilly, heard about Hennglise’s condition and worked to coordinate a second surgery in Haiti. But inadequate intensive care resources and potential power outages in the country raised concerns about the safety of the very delicate and specialized surgery.

Next, with full financial support from O’Reilly, Project HOPE sought assistance from Operation Smile, the renowned Norfolk-based charity that has helped repair children’s facial abnormalities around the world since 1982. Because Hennglise’s condition was too serious to address in her own country, Operation Smile accepted her as a World Care patient for surgery in the United States and reached out to CHKD – its longstanding partner in charitable pediatric craniofacial reconstruction for international patients.

Hennglise and Dr. Magee“CHKD has the ability to handle practically any tertiary-care need and has a talented team of medical professionals in pediatric neurosurgery and craniofacial surgery. The hospital was the natural choice for Hennglise’s operation,” says Dr. William Magee, Operation Smile co-founder and the head plastic surgeon for Hennglise’s procedure.

By this spring, the disfiguring tumor had grown to 4 pounds. Stares and comments from classmates had forced Hennglise to drop out of school months earlier, and even her own relatives had stopped visiting. When she and her mother arrived at CHKD for the surgery in April, the mass had pushed Hennglise’s left eye and jaw out of place. “Her abilities to eat and talk were affected, and the tumor’s growth blinded the affected eye,” says CHKD craniofacial surgeon Dr. Jesus Gil B. “Jegit” Inciong. If left untreated, the massive, aggressive tumor could eventually cut off Hennglise’s airway.

In addition to CHKD’s pediatric anesthesiologists, intensive care physicians and nurses, Hennglise’s surgical team included Dr. Magee, Dr. Inciong and fellow CHKD craniofacial surgeon Dr. George Hoerr. Dr. Joseph Dilustro, a CHKD pediatric neurosurgeon, and Dr. Eric Crouch, a pediatric ophthalmologist, were also in the operating room to evaluate the need for intracranial and eye surgery. In a surgery that took nearly 10 hours, the team removed Hennglise’s tumor and reconstructed her left eye socket and upper jaw bone.

After surgery, Hennglise recovered in CHKD’s pediatric intensive care unit for several days and was out of the hospital just five days after her operation. In the weeks that followed, her mother returned to Haiti to care for Hennglise’s siblings, and Hennglise continued her recovery at the homes of several host families in Hampton Roads in order to be close to CHKD’s medical resources for follow-up care.

Hennglise wanted to wait until the swelling subsided before taking a look at herself after surgery. Iris Feduniewicz, who hosted Hennglise during her stay, watched as she saw her reflection in their family’s hall mirror. “She stared at herself for a moment, looked at the ground, stared again at her reflection, and a big grin spread over her face,” she says.

Remarkably, six weeks after surgery, Hennglise could eat almost anything, cut in small pieces, and had discovered a new-found favorite food – pizza. She was able to visit several Hampton Roads attractions, like the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Center and the Virginia Zoo. And in June, Hennglise was well enough to join CHKD doctors and Operation Smile caregivers for the one mile walk at The King’s Daughters RunWalk for the Kids at Town Point Park.

“She has recovered well. She is talking well in Creole and is happy,” says Dr. Inciong. Still, he adds, the teen’s medical journey is not quite over. Removing the tumor was just the first step.

“As her face heals and the tissues settle down, more surgery will be required,” Inciong says. Hennglise required an eye prosthetic and dentures. She remained in the United States on a medical visa until September, and CHKD and Operation Smile continued to provide follow-up care up until her return to Haiti this fall.

“Operation Smile and CHKD have had decades of cooperation caring for children with craniofacial abnormalities,” says Dr. Inciong, whose work as an Operation Smile volunteer spans more than two decades. “We are fortunate that both complementary organizations are local here in Hampton Roads, but capable of serving the needs of children worldwide.”

Hennglise, who traveled more than 1,000 miles from home, is grateful for that cooperation and the team that came together to change her life. And her new confidence, new energy and new smile – a grin full of gratitude – say it all. 

Dr. Joseph Dilustro practices with CHKD Surgical Group's pediatric neurosurgery practice. Drs. George Hoerr and Jesus Gil B. Inciong practice with CHKD Surgical Group's plastic surgery practice. Dr. Eric Crouch practices with Virginia Pediatric Eye Center. Dr. William Magee practices with Magee-Rosenblum Plastic Surgery. Dr. Douglas Mitchell practices with CHKD Medical Group's Norfolk Pediatrics.