Nicole was born with a large bump below her lower lip and Lynn, her mother, did not know what it was or how to treat her daughter’s condition. Lynn was a single mother who worked part-time at Vons to try and make ends meet – she even resorted to welfare to help keep her family alive and healthy. Although Nicole and her family never had much money, they always had each other and held out hope that one day Nicole would receive treatment for her condition. Regardless, Lynn barely had enough money to keep her family off the streets, let alone pay for the medical care needed for the bump that was continuing to grow near Nicole’s lip.
Nicole was ridiculed because of her “bump” from her peers and children would laugh and point at her; some children would even tell Nicole horrible things, one child told Nicole: “You’ll never be pretty again.” Nicole’s self-esteem and confidence fell dramatically and she sucked her thumb until she was about nine years old to try and hide her “bump”.
Nicole and Lynn visited over a dozen doctors attempting to diagnose Nicole’s condition, but none of them were of any help. Nicole and her mother almost gave up hope, that is until they found Dr. Nigro, the founder of Fresh Start Surgical Gifts, a charity for children that changed her life. He immediately recognized the bump as a Hemangioma, a benign cluster of cells and blood vessels, and immediately accepted Nicole’s case. When Nicole was just five years old she we went to Dr. Nigro for her first reconstructive surgery designed for children, where he performed reconstructive surgeries to fix her lip and allow her to shut her mouth. When Nicole was in kindergarten Dr. Nigro reconstructed her lips and eased some of the humiliation that Nicole felt on a daily basis, although Nicole still felt self-conscious of her appearance for a very long time.
Nicole’s first surgery was now almost 20 years ago. Nicole is now a young adult living on her own with her son who is five and just started kindergarten. Nicole graduated high school and recently completed a Certified Nursing Assistant Program and is working full-time as a caregiver. Nicole is ecstatic to finally be financially stable and have a job that provides her with enough income to take care of her child as well as the satisfaction that she is helping others and giving back.
Nicole has been a patient with Fresh Start off and on for over 20 years now and has received countless reconstructive Hemangioma surgeries, laser treatments, and other procedures all performed by volunteer medical professionals. Although the journey has been long, over the past few months Nicole received her final treatments. She is now an official graduate of the Fresh Start program and a proud part of our reconstructive surgery stories.
Although Nicole still feels a bit self-conscious of her appearance, her confidence has increased tremendously and she no longer hides or is embarrassed of the way she looks. One of Nicole’s final treatments included tattooing on her bottom lip, donated by a professional permanent make-up artist. This final piece of Nicole’s treatment made Nicole’s lip look whole again and took away many of her past memories of being made fun of and embarrassed of her condition – now Nicole feels confident in front of others and barely notices where her Hemangioma once was.