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A 12-year-old girl can finally smile after surgeons removed a tumour that was taking over her whole face - and literally killing her.
Known only as Kaltoumi, the youngster was given just three months to live as the tumour restricted her eating and slowly suffocated her.
After five years living with the growth, she was saved when surgeons aboard the Africa Mercy - a hospital ship giving care to third world countries - docked in Cameroon to perform surgery.
Kaltoumi, who was described as having the 'potential to be a world-changer', was flown to the dock by the Cameroonian government.
Once on board, the surgical team worked tirelessly to remove the tumour.
After the surgery Kaltoumi, who is smiling and eating properly for the first time in years, said: "It feels like a heaviness has been lifted from me."
Dr Gary Parker, surgeon and chief medical officer, described Kaltoumi as the 'poster child' for five billion people unable to access 'timely, affordable, safe surgery' in impoverished countries on the continent.
He added: "Because of lack of access to the care she needed, a 12-year-old girl ended up with a massive tumour threatening her life.
"A man becomes a creature of his uniform. The 'uniform' that's put on someone like Kaltoumi, as this tumour relentlessly enlarges, is that you're cursed.
"You're not a worthy member of this human race. When that uniform changes, dramatic things can happen. Who you are, which has been lost for all these years, starts to bubble back up again.
"She has the potential to be a world-changer because she has the determination to never give up."
When Kaltoumi saw her new face in the mirror the following day she beamed.
But it didn't end there - the road to recovery was long and she returned to the ship several months later to have tightening treatment.
Crew rallied around Kaltoumi, showering her with affection and friendship.
She formed a sisterly bond with volunteer Carys Parker, a chaplain on board.
Carys said: "When I first met her, she was reserved and tentative to try new games and activities with me, but within a matter of weeks I found it impossible to see Kaltoumi without hearing her laughter and being body slammed by one of her hugs.
"She loves life and she wants to share that love and joy with others. It truly does take a village to bring about such amazing change."
Kaltoumi dreams of returning to school and finishing her education. She also wants to expand her family's farm and help sell produce at the local market.
Her biggest dream is to one day be able to marry and have a family of her own - a future that feels possible without the weight of a life-threatening tumour.
We wish her all the best. Now go and kick ass, Kaltoumi.
Featured Image Credit: SWNS
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