Three-year-old Melyssa Delgado Braga from Sao Paolo, Brazil was born with a very severe condition that made the first few years of her life extremely difficult. But Melyssa is also very fortunate to have very loving and dedicated parents whose determination has given the girl a chance at having a healthy, normal life.
Shortly after birth, Melyssa was diagnosed with a benign tumor. There was no risk of cancer, but the tumor was very large and was causing other health problems. It continued to grow until, by the age of three, Melyssa could not longer talk or eat properly.
The massive lump was actually taking blood away from the rest of her body to the point that Melyssa was so tired she could hardly move. Her immune system was also getting weaker by the day.
Melyssa’s parents, 21-year-old Carol and 25-year-old Manasses, became desperate. In their home country of Brazil there seemed to be no one who could offer their daughter the medical treatment she needed. Carol and Manasses couldn’t stand to see their daughter suffering so badly and felt like failures for not being able to offer her a decent life.
The couple decided to take matters into their own hands and began using social media in their search for help. They created a Facebook page called «Ajudem a Melyssa» (Help Melissa) and made their story public. Their goal was to gain enough support so they could go the United States where Melyssa would get the treatment she needed.
Soon their perseverance paid off. While checking news from his native country, Dr. Celso Palmieri at the Oral and Maxillofacial Clinic in New Orelans, came across the Melyssa’s Facebook page. He was immediately touched by the family’s story and contacted his colleague Dr. Ghali to find out if they could help.
Dr. Ghali agreed and he and Dr. Palmieri began making arrangements to bring the entire family to the United States. They felt that it was important for Melyssa to be surrounded by loved ones during what would prove to be a very extensive and difficult course of treatment.
To cover the costs of this visit the doctors turned to the Willis-Knighton Health System for financial assistance. Amazingly, the organization agreed to cover not only the travel and accommodation expenses, but also the cost of the treatment as well.
Melyssa’s parents couldn’t believe their good fortune: «We were desperate to save our daughter’s life. Surgeons in Brazil told us our Melyssa was going to die because the treatment they wanted to give her would be too much for her weakened immune system.»
Soon they were on their way to the United States with high hopes that Melyssa’s ordeal would soon be over.
But when the doctors examined Melyssa for the first time, they were shocked — the tumor had progressed much further than they expected and had begun to attack her jaw right up to her teeth. It was a like a parasite that fed on Melyssa’s body in order to grow. They knew then that the surgery would be more difficult than anticipated and were not sure of success.
The big day arrived and Melyssa was prepared for surgery. Her family waited nervously and the wait was very long. The hours ticked by and the tension increased with each passing minute. But finally, eight hours later, Melyssa was taken from the operating room and brought the recovery ward. The operation was a success! The doctors had managed to remove 5.5 lbs of tumor. Melyssa’s life was about to change forever.
When Melyssa woke up she could hardly believe what she saw in the mirror. Although she had a large gash on her chin that went from ear to ear, she still looked more like a «normal» little girl than she had ever before. It was the most beautiful day of her life.
A few weeks later, she smiled and was able to eat again for the first time. Her new life had begun.
Melyssa is doing much better, but there is still a long road ahead. Over the next ten years she will require several more surgeries to make sure the tumor does not come back. It is an expensive course of treatment, but the family is receiving very generous support from non-profit organizations.
You can watch this moving story in this video:
Melyssa is a very courageous little girl who, along with her loving family and some generous medical professionals, managed to overcome a terrible condition that would have otherwise taken her life. It’s amazing to see the power of social media and what can happen when people reach out to others. For Melyssa and her family, it gave them a very good chance of having a healthy, happy life together. And for that they’ll be forever grateful.