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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 28, 2003

'Operation Smile' surgery a success

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Staff Writer

It took 10 1/2 hours of surgery yesterday to repair a severe birth defect in the last of three Filipino children who were brought to Hawai'i in a dramatic humanitarian effort by U.S. Army personnel, "Operation Smile" and a private Big Island foundation.

Mary Ann Monteroso, 8, and Nonel Lumahan, 11, show their appreciation to Jae Termeer of the World Healing Institute. The two, along with Ian Nakila, 8, underwent surgery for facial deformities.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Eleven-year-old Nonel Lumahan was finally out of surgery at 6:30 p.m. yesterday and resting in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Tripler Army Medical Center.

"It was much more challenging," said Lt. Col. Thomas Crabtree. The Tripler plastic and reconstructive surgeon was part of a team that repaired the gap in the bones of the child's face that failed to form correctly during early pregnancy.

"He looks good. He did well," said Crabtree. "The bone was a bit thicker in certain places and the reconstruction took longer."

Physicians, including Crabtree's Tripler partner, Maj. Jeff Healy, and "Operation Smile" co-founder Dr. William Magee, had to rebuild the boy's eye sockets and reposition the eyes an inch and a half closer together.

"He has good vision in each eye but he did not use them together," Crabtree said. "He'll have to relearn to see 3-D properly, but kids bounce back and relearn very well."

The surgical teams from Tripler and "Operation Smile," a 21-year-old humanitarian organization that has repaired facial birth defects in 70,000 children around the world, completed surgeries on three children from the southern Mindanao region of Davao over the weekend.

"I just want to thank my new friends in Hawai'i for all they did," said a tearful Sherly Lumahan, the boy's mother.

The three children all suffered from a condition called frontonasal encephalocele — brain hernias — in which the bone did not form correctly. Although it's rarely seen in Western nations, the condition occurs at a rate of about one per 3,000 live births in developing countries. Malnutrition is a risk factor, doctors say.

After they leave Tripler this week, the children will recover on the Big Island for the next three months with the World Healing Institute overseeing a program of alternative care designed to respond to any emotional needs they might have.