An Ecuadorean boy who had been hiding his facial deformity behind a scarf was all smiles Friday as he prepared to return home after undergoing 10 surgeries in the past eight months.
Kevin Rosero, 10, beamed as his doctors at Stony Brook University Hospital detailed the medical procedures that repaired his severely deformed lower lip.
"I feel really good," the boy said.
The hospital gave Kevin, a soccer fan, a special send-off by arranging for him to meet the Stony Brook men's soccer team, which gave him a signed ball, T-shirt and a seat on the bench for Friday night's home game against Rhode Island.
"When we heard about Kevin's story, we were truly, truly amazed by the strength and the courage that he's shown -- not just over the last eight months, but throughout the course of his life," Seawolves coach Ryan Anatol said.
Kevin came to Long Island in January under a program operated by Blanca's House, a volunteer organization in Huntington Station focused on improving access to modern health care.
The boy has been living in the Miller Place home of Sheila and Brian Campbell. When he arrived in the United States, Kevin did not speak English, but he attended elementary school and has since become fluent, said Sheila Campbell, a Blanca's House volunteer.
Kevin's doctors, Alexander Dagum and Henry Woo, sitting by the boy as the soccer team lined the wall behind them, said at a news conference Friday that they performed 10 surgeries, not counting dental work, to correct a "massive venous malformation," typically caused by widened, abnormally shaped veins.
The condition made it difficult for him to eat, and doctors were concerned about additional health complications that could lead to blindness or even death.
Dagum, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Stony Brook, said it's not known what causes the malformations. "We don't know why," he said. "As the child gets older, it gets bigger, for various reasons."
Tests showed the condition affected Kevin's cheek, tongue, larynx, throat and lips, he said.
Dagum said it had been "tough" for Kevin growing up, hiding his abnormality under a scarf for years.
"It was hard for him, not only from a functional perspective, but just knowing -- looking at yourself every day," the doctor said. "So, it's a change, and now he's a normal, good-looking boy with no functional issues."
At one point, Kevin put his head on the table and cried.
"Ahh, it's OK. It's all right. You're doing a great job," Campbell said, pulling Kevin toward her. "This is unusual for Kevin. He's usually very sure of himself."
How will his family in Riobamba, Ecuador, feel when they see him again next week? reporters asked.
"They'll be happy," he said softly.
Then he gasped and turned to his host mother, who said, "Oh please, don't cry anymore."