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A woman who suffered from huge facial tumours has said she is 'so happy' after undergoing seven hours of surgery.
A group of Australian surgeons and volunteers banded together to perform life-changing surgery on 26-year-old Natalia Apaseray, who was suffering from a rare condition known as neurofibromatosis.
This disorder causes benign tumours to grow on the skin, spinal cord and nerves - and left Natalia, from West Papua in Indonesia, struggling to drink and eat.
The condition is often treated at birth, but for Natalia this wasn't the case, as she didn't have access to medical care.
As a result, the woman was ostracised by her local community and subjected to cruel treatment due to her facial deformities.
One of the plastic surgeons who performed the op, Michael Kernohan, told SBS news: "She was found by one of the missionary workers in her country in a bin with local kids throwing rocks at it."
According to the Daily Mail, one of those who found her got in touch Peter Gray of the non-profit Rotary Club of Phnom Penh, asking for help and saying: "No one deserves to live like this."
Immediately, the former president of the club joined forces with members from Rotary clubs in Sydney, Bendigo and his own to raise over $27,000 to fly Natalia to Australia for treatment.
But this was no simple procedure. Alongside cardiothoracic surgeon Bruce French, Kernohan started to plan for the complicated surgery 18 months in advance of the patient's arrival.
"Rotary flew Natalia to Australia late in 2018 for an intensive week of medical appointments and scans before she returned again in May as a humanitarian patient," explained Kernohan.
A team of specialists including plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists, ear nose and throat surgeons, psychologists, anaesthetists, radiologists and nursing staff worked together on her initial surgery in May.
This was followed by major facial reconstruction surgery in June of this year, which took roughly seven hours.
"There are countless people who offered their time to be part of something that had never been done in a NSW hospital," added Kernohan.
"Natalia has been so brave throughout this unfamiliar journey and has not complained once."
Natalia has since expressed her gratitude towards the Rotary clubs and Liverpool Hospital staff for their life-changing help.
"I felt a lot of shame growing up in Jayapura because of my face," she told news.com.au.
"I am so happy to be going back to see my community. I no longer feel the need to hide my face. There is no way I can pay everyone back for how they have helped."
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