Talking Proud Archives --- Culture

We’re with you, Marlie, all the way

Warning: Photos in this report are of a beautiful little girl afflicted with a rare but terrible disease that has disfigured her greatly, but doctors in Miami have done their first major operation and young Marlie Casseus of Haiti has given them a "thumbs up" post-op. We hope to follow her rehabilitation over time.

December 18, 2005, updated on February 11, 2010

February 11, 2010: The International Kids Fund (IKF) has informed us that Marlie Casseus and her family survived the recent Haiti earthquake. An IKF spokesperson said that they are, however, living in the streets and the IKF is trying to arrange for them to come to the US. Furthermore, the IKF is working to bring injured kids from Haiti to the US for medical treatment and is seeking donations. IKF was very involved with bringing Marlie to the US for the medical treatments described below.

January 2, 2007: Marlie Casseus is home, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, December 23, 2006. Lynne Sladky has continued to photograph Marlie for AP. Thanks again, Lynne.


Marlie Casseus, left, gets a high-five from Dr. Jesus Gomez, right, on December 19, 2006, before her departure for home. Dr. Gomez has led the surgical and recovery teams from the beginning.


Airport workers gather around on Marlie's arrival at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, December 23, 2006.


Marlie's mom, Maleine Antoine, pushes the wheelchair on the way to church, December 24, 2006.


Father Andre Pierre, left, blesses Marlie at the Sacre Coeur Church in Port-au-Price, December 24, 2006.


Janvier Pierre Marcel, Marlie's cousin, center, hugs her while sitting on her porch with her sister, Stephanie, right, December 24, 2006.


Joseph Exanfort, Marlie's neighbor, kisses her on December 24, 2006.


Fleurilus Verline, left, Marlie's cousin, combs her hair in Marlie's bedroom while Marlie plays with a hand-held video game, Christmas 2006.


Marlie, center, sits at the head of the Christmas 2006 table as her family sings.


Marlie, center, poses with her sisters Stellecie, left, and Stephanie, right, on the porch of their home in Port-au-Prince on Christmas 2006.

December 21, 2006: Marlie Cassues came before the public on December 19, 2006 and spoke her first words in six years. She said, "Thank you." She blew kisses to the cameras. Marlie's mother, Maleine Antoine, said, "I want to address a special thanks to those who paid for the surgery for my daughter. Now she's a normal person. She can eat, drink. Thank God. Thanks everybody. You have a special place in my heart. I will never forget you." Doctors expect she'll need two more reconstructive surgeries, but they will wait about two years to let her facial bones finish growing. We have a series of photos from the December 19 appearance. While some might say she has a long way to go, go back to see where she came from and your pitter-patter will go heart-heart. Way to go Marlie! We're proud of you.

Photo credits: Lynne Sladky, AP. Nice job Lynne!


Marlie Casseus stands as Dr. Jesus Gomez touches her face while talking about her most recent surgery during a news conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006. Marlie is returning home to Haiti after undergoing four reconstructive surgeries to remove a tumor from her face. Gomez is the University of Miami medical school maxillofacial surgeon who has led Marlie's surgical teams.


Marlie Casseus, right, is hugged by Dr. Jesus Gomez after he gave her a pink cellular phone as a Christmas gift.


Marlie Casseus, center, is hugged by Dr. Jesus Gomez, left, as her mother Maleine Antoine, right, looks on. Bravo to you Mom! You have hung in there. Marlie is lucky that you her mom.


Marlie Casseus, right, shakes hands with a well-wisher while shopping in Sunrise, Florida. At center is Ginette Eugene, whose nonprofit Good Samaritan for a Better Life helped bring Marlie to the U.S.


Marlie Casseus points to a photograph of herself showing her condition one year ago when she arrived in Miami for surgery.


Marlie Casseus eyes lace underwear while shopping.


Marlie Casseus, foreground, models a new outfit while trying on clothing during a shopping trip. At left is Ginette Eugene, whose nonprofit Good Samaritan for a Better Life helped bring Marlie to the U.S., and second from right is Marline's mother, Maleine Antoine.

November 30, 2006: Marlie underwent her fourth surgery on October 5, 2006, this time to replace a titanium plate previously implanted to replace her jaw. Polymer was used to replace other facial bones. She will likely need more surgeries in the future, but doctors are now talking more and more about waiting until she has finished growing. Doctors expect her to be able to speak soon, and she will also start getting soft, pureed foods instead of just liquids. She has been working on her desired menu! We have some new photos. Go get 'em, Marlie, we love ya! You're one tough cookie. As the saying goes, "You've come a long way baby!"


Gina Eugene, left, Ginnette Eugene, rear left, and Maleine Antoine, center, sing God Bless America as Maleine's daughter Marlie Casseus, right, is wheeled to surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006. Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, AP


Marlie Casseus writes down which foods she would like to eat once she has recovered enough to eat real food instead of her liquid diet while in her room at the Ronald McDonald House, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Friday, Sept. 29, 2006. Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, AP


Marlie Casseus, center, communicates with her mother Maleine Antoine, left, and Ginette Eugene, right, in her room at the Ronald McDonald House, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Friday, Sept. 29, 2006. Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, AP


Marlie Casseus, left, is kissed by nurse Jessie Darius, right, as she is wheeled to a doctor appointment at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Friday, Sept. 29, 2006. Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, AP


Marlie Casseus. right, prays prior to her surgery with Ginnette Eugene, left, Gina Eugene, second from left, and her mother Maleine Antoine in her room at the Ronald McDonald House, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006. Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, AP


A team of doctors operate on Marlie Casseus at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006. Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, AP


X-rays depicting the skull of Marlie Casseus hang in the operating room during her surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006. Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, AP


Marlie Casseus has her face operated on at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006. Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, AP

August 13, 2006: Marlie underwent her third surgery on July 14, 2006 at Holtz Childen's Hospital in Miami. This photo, presented by the International Kids Fund which is raising money to support Marlie's surgeries and recovery, shows the Third Operation Group at work. This surgery was to reconstruct the upper mid-portion of her face. Her last surgery focused more on forming her nasal bridge, upper lip, and correcting her extreme separation of eyes. The July surgery is said to have gone very well. Doctors anticipate she will need one or two more surgeries, mostly cosmetic. She has been able to visit home and family in Haiti and she has even gone to Disney World. She plays lots of video games, watches TV, and loves reading, with a special interest in cook books. She told her mom that her wish for her next, the 15th, birthday, is to be able to eat normally and go home to stay.

February 5, 2006: Doctors conducted more surgery on Marlie on January 26, 2006, removing the last piece of the massive growth that once consumed her entire face. The doctors spent more than eight hours removing two fist-sized massess from the bottom of Marlie's face, and rebuilt her jaw. Dr. Jesus Gomez, who led the operation, has said, "This is a complete success. She's able to smile, open and close her mouth and breathe through her nose.'' The next set of tasks are to rebuild her nose and bring her eyes closer together. Doctors estimate this might require two more surgeries, and have scheduled them for later this year.

January 17, 2006 update: Marlie is scheduled for a second surgery in late January. We wish her well. Her recovery continues to move along nicely.

December 23 update: Marlie continues to do "extremely well," is now breathing on her own, and her doctor says she should soon start eating without a feeding tube. Her doctor anticipates at least three more surgeries to reconstruct her jaw, nose and face.
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December 18, 2005 (Original story)

Marlie Casseus is a 14-year old girl from Haiti. She had a nine pound (some reports say 16-pound) tumor-like mass that had taken over her entire face. Doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami took most of it out in a 17-hour operation on December 14, 2005.

Laura Wides-Munoz has reported for AP that the procedure went far better than expected, with doctors able to remove most of the tumor from both sides of her face rather than just one side, as was originally planned.

Dr. Jesus Gomez of the University of Miami School of Medicine, one of the operating surgeons, asked Marlie how she was doing after the operation, and she gave him a big “thumbs up.”

The tumor had been growing so rapidly that it was blocking her capacity to breath. Doctors had to cut open part of her face, remove a mass of jelly and bone from her lower eye sockets, replace that with metal plates, and reconstruct the interior of her nose. Doctors will later have to operate on her jaw and provide her further reconstructive surgeries.

The hospital’s International Kids Fund has been gathering up donations to pay, the doctors have donated their time. We’ll try to keep you posted over time with updates. The main threat at the moment, always extant during surgery, is infection. But thus far, all systems are go, Marlie can breathe through her nose, and there’s nothing better than a “thumbs up.”

God bless you Marlie Casseus. It looks like He already has. Merry Christmas!

The following photos have been made available by the hospital involved. We hope to update them over time to reflect Marlie's progress. The photos are arranged newest to oldest.


Dr. Jesus Gomez explains a surgical procedure done on Marlie Casseus, 14, of Haiti, at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami Friday, Jan. 27, 2006. A medical team performed a second surgery on her face to remove the last remains of the growth Thursday. She is reported to be in critical but stable condition. At left is Casseus after the first surgery, and at right, after the second surgery. Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, AP


Maleine Antoine, center, sings "God Bless America" during a news conference where doctors discussed the surgery on her daughter Marlie Casseus, in photo at right, at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami , Friday, Jan. 27, 2006. Also pictured are sisters Ginette Eugene, left, and Gina Eugene, right, who started the campaign to bring Casseus to the U.S. for the operation. Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, AP


A handout photo released on December 16, 2005 shows Marlie Casseus, 14 after surgeons removed the 16-lb. growth from her face. Photo credit: Holtz Children's Hospital


Maxillofacial surgeon Jesus Gomez of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, explains the surgical procedure performed on Marlie Casseus during a news conference Friday, Dec. 16, 2005, in Miami. The photo on the right, shows Marlie after the operation. Photo credit: Alan Diaz, AP


Maxillofacial surgeon Jesus Gomez, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, explains the procedure of the surgery to be performed on Marlie Casseus on a CT scan image during a news conference Dec. 13, 2005 in Miami. Photo credit: Alan Diaz, AP


Marlie Casseus, 14, a Haitian girl who has a 16-pound (7.26 kg) tumor-like growth on her face, is shown in this undated handout photograph from the hospital. Casseus, who has a genetic condition that causes deformity in her bones, underwent surgery on December 14, 2005 at Holtz Children's Hospital, part of the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center in Florida. Casseus' case received global media attention, motivating thousands of people from across the globe to donate to the International Kids Fund which is sponsoring her medical care at the public hospital, part of the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center. Reuters


This is an undated family photo of Marlie Cassueus when she was a younger child, made available by the International Kids Fund.