Vietnamese girl freed from lifelong enlarged tongue condition

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Doctors in Hanoi have successfully repaired a 15-year-old girl's enlarged tongue, which had prevented her from closing her mouth since age one.

Duong Thi Thao was discharged January 12 after a successful operation on January 3 at Hanoi National Hospital of Pediatrics, Sam Seyadoussane, who runs the Canada-based Virtual Medical Miracle Network and helped Thao contact the doctors, told Thanh Nien via email.

"She no longer needs to cover her face with a face mask when going out," he said.

The operation is expected to free Thao from further suffering, which for nearly her whole life, included difficulty with simple tasks such as eating, breathing or even swallowing saliva. She was ridiculed in school and lived an otherwise reclusive life inside her house.

Thao suffered from Macroglossia, or Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, a congenital growth disorder, which caused the increase in tissue on her tongue, rather than by a tumor.

The surgery was conducted by Dr Dang Hoang Thom, a plastic surgery at the hospital. Thom and Ha Van Minh, head of the hospital's Social Affairs Department, also knocked on doors to collect money for the girl's family in order to pay for the procedure. A local Buddhist monk, some Catholic nuns also helped raise funds.


 Duong Thi Thao before her tongue condition was treated

News website VnExpress said in a recent report that Thao's exposed tongue would become dry and bleed, which was exacerbated by the cool, arid climate of her hometown in the northern mountainous province of Thai Nguyen.

Do Thi Thon, her mother, said Thao had one surgery when her tongue began to swell at age one. The family of the H'Mong ethnic group then had to borrow money, selling their paddy field and their only buffalo to have her treated at the Vietnam-Sweden Children's Hospital.

But she was never taken back for follow up appointments because her parents, who had two older children to take care of as well, could not afford to until now.

"Thao has been stable. She can eat and drink by herself, and can speak," Dr. Dang Hoang Thom from the social services unit of the Hanoi hospital said in an email Seyadoussane forwarded to Thanh Nien.

Thom she will receive injections three months later to reduce her neck swellings.

Kim Anh, a charity worker and Virtual Medical Miracle Network volunteer from Hanoi who worked closely in the case, said she was "stunned" upon seeing Thao after the procedure.

"The extraordinarily large tongue has disappeared, and although it's still swollen and Thao is yet to be able to close her mouth, she looks much prettier and more comfortable," Anh said.

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