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Malaysian surgeon leads Australia team to give Filipino boy a 'new face'

Published on Jul 13, 2014 4:55 PM
This combo of undated handout photos released on July 3, 2014 by the Monash Children's Hospital in Melbourne shows seven-year-old Jhonny Lameon from the Philippines before (L) and after (R) having surgery to remove a huge tumour from his face. - AFP

MELBOURNE (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Malaysian has led a team of four surgeons to remove a disfiguring growth from the face of a seven-year-old Filipino boy at the Monash Children's Hospital.

Plastic surgeon Dr James Leong Chin Sek, who was born in Kota Baru, Kelantan, said Jhonny Lameon had a severe fronto-nasal encephalocele - a neural tube defect that results in membranous sacs expanding through openings in the skull.

The surgeons, all working pro bono, performed an eight-hour operation to remove the mass and reconstruct Jhonny's entire face in March.

"I was sent an email with photos and the story of Jhonny who had this terrible defect and straight away, we decided to help him.

"Our team at Monash Health mobilised all of our resources to bring Jhonny to Melbourne", Dr Leong, 48, told Bernama.

The boy has since been recovering at the Monash Children's Hospital and the Children First Foundation's rehabilitation farm at Kilmore, 40km north of Melbourne.

Dr Leong, an alumni of the University of Melbourne, said the condition was quite rare, with about one in 10,000 babies born with the defect.

Jhonny had already lost sight in one eye after the sac pushed into it and caused irreparable damage, according to Bernama.

Dr Leong said most of these defects should be attended to very early after they were picked up on ultrasound. But in Jhonny's case, he lived in a very poor environment.

Dr Leong said because there were no facilities near Jhonny's home, and his family could not afford the medical procedure in the Philippines, the surgery had to be done in Australia.

Jhonny was assessed by a team from Interplast, a non-profit organisation supported by Rotary and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons during a visit to the Philippines.

Interplast then got in touch with Dr Leong who was only too willing to help the boy.

"His condition is cured now, which is going to be fantastic for him," Dr Leong said.

"It has been a privilege for all of us to be part of this life-changing surgery," he added.

Dr Leong has given Jhonny, who was accompanied by his mother Chochi, the all-clear to return home to his father, a fisherman, and his 10 siblings in Mindanao.

"There is also a new addition to the family as while in Australia, Mrs Lameon gave birth to baby Jack in March. This was unexpected and a real surprise," he said.