PNG Girl Returns To Australia For Life-Changing Surgery Free Of Charge
Vascolynna Agamo has a fused jaw. She can’t chew, and it badly affects her speech and breathing.
The 18-year-old and her father Duane flew into the country Tuesday night so she can undergo delicate surgery at Brisbane's Wesley Hospital this weekend.
But it’s not the first time they’ve sought help in Australia.
In 2003, aged three, she came to Brisbane for a similar operation which allowed her to eat, speak and smile for the first time.
But over the years, her jaw fused again in a different spot, making it impossible to eat anything but soft food -- and most recently, only liquids.
It’s had a huge impact on her life.
Vascolynna is only able to speak ‘inside’ her mouth, as her jaw doesn’t move.
She left school in grade seven. Her father Duane suspects it may be because other students were bullying her for her appearance.
He’s now by her side as she faces a second surgery, which will hopefully repair her jaw for good.
"Thank you so much for having my daughter back again," he said at Brisbane International Airport on Tuesday.
"Thank you so much Australia for having us once again."
Dr John Arvier, the surgeon who first operated on Vascolynna more than 15 years ago, will also assist in the upcoming surgery.
"We hope to use the muscle from the side of the head as a barrier to stop it [the jaw] from refusing," he said of the surgery.
But one of the hardest aspects of the surgery will be for the anaesthetist.
"Any time you need an operation, the breathing tube that breathes for you when you're asleep has to go down through your windpipe," he said.
"That can't be done with your mouth's fused."
The cost of their trip has been covered by Rotary, and staff and surgeons at the Wesley Hospital are donating their time and expertise free of charge.
Greg Pearson, past president of Brisbane High-Rise Rotary Club said members felt an obligation to see Vascolynna's treatment through.
"She'd originally come out as part of a Rotary program and she no longer qualified for that," he said.
"So our club felt an obligation to complete the surgery given the long contact with her and that they'd been instrumental in the first surgery, so it was considered to be a number one priority."
Pearson said it had been a massive community effort to bring the young girl back, thanking the surgeons for their time and BDO Migration Services for spending the past year arranging the necessary VISAS.