Tzu Chi medical charity gives Filipino patient new lease on life

10/17/2019 09:08 PM
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Photo courtesy of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital
Photo courtesy of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital

Taipei, Oct. 17 (CNA) After a four-year ordeal in which a rapidly-growing tumor deformed his face, Michael Mahusay is smiling again following a series of surgeries at Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital.

At a press conference on Thursday marking the end of his treatment, Mahusay, a 26 year-old from the Philippines, said he first discovered the bone-textured mass on his upper left jaw in 2015.

Within two years, the tumorous growth had fundamentally altered his life: he had trouble eating and speaking, and had to cover his face with a bandanna in public.

(Michael Mahusay [center] as seen after his surgery/Photo courtesy of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital)

Finally, his girlfriend left him, taking their young son, Mahusay said.

In September 2017, Mahusay visited free medical consultation at Pedro Guevarra Elementary School in Manila, where doctors from the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) recommended surgery to remove the tumor.

TIMA, a branch of Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, which carries out charitable medical outreach in 15 countries, arranged for Mahusay to be flown to Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital for treatment.

When Mahusay arrived in Hualien in June, doctors devised a cross-departmental treatment plan to remove the tumor and reconstruct the affected parts of his face.

According to ENT specialist Chen Pei-jung (陳培榕), Mahusay suffered from a cemento-ossifying fibroma, a benign but often rapidly-growing facial tumor composed of cementum, bone, and fibrous matter.

(Photo courtesy of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital)

Though such tumors rarely exceed 5 cm, Mahusay's tumor, at 12cm, was something his team had seen only seen a handful of times in more than a decade at Tzu Chi Hospital, Chen said.

To complicate matters, the tumor's size and depth had deformed the bone structure of Mahusay's jaw, nose, and forehead, meaning that surgery presented a significant risk of blood loss, while failure to completely extract the tumor created a risk that it would regrow, Chen said.

In the end, Mahusay required a total of nine surgeries over four months -- a complex and onerous process which doctors explained publicly for the first time on Thursday.

At the press conference, Mahusay told reporters that he was happy to be breathing and eating without difficulty again, though his unabashed smile and uncovered face was a testament to the treatment's success.

After thanking his doctors, Mahusay said he was looking forward to returning home, to finding a job and supporting himself, and most importantly, reuniting with his 7-year-old son. (Chang Chi and Matthew Mazzetta)


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