Tatiana Franco-Rosero, of Ecuador, was told last year
by doctors in her homeland that she would have only about a year to live.
Franco-Rosero, 28, a mother of two boys under 10, had developed a rare
apple-sized growth on the roof of her mouth. She couldn't eat, had lost more
than 40 pounds and could not receive the treatment she needed from local
"The first thing I thought about was my children, that I wouldn't see them
grow up. Who was going to take care of them?" said Franco-Rosero through
translator Galo Burbano, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at John T.
Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson.
But a traveling team of medical volunteers, led by Burbano, happened to
meet with Franco-Rosero in Ecuador last September through Blanca's House of
Hicksville, which helped arrange the trip, and Healing the Children Northeast
Inc., a Connecticut-based nonprofit organization that provides medical services
to needy children throughout the world.
Two doctors persuaded Mather officials to bring Franco-Rosero to Long
Island for treatment after a biopsy showed that the growth was cancerous.
"We live in the United States and we know we're so blessed and everything
is available," said Dr. Salim Matar, a head and neck surgeon at Mather, who
visited Ecuador with the group for the first time in September.
"When you go to a Third World country, you see the medical poverty and it
breaks your heart."
Last month, during a seven-hour surgical procedure, doctors removed three
molars from Franco-Rosero's mouth, along with some of her sinus tissue. The
result left Franco-Rosero with a large hole between her mouth and nasal cavity.
Dr. Stephen Coccaro, a plastic surgeon with Suffolk Plastic Surgeons in
East Setauket who also went to Ecuador, then removed a flap from her temple to
reconstruct the roof of her mouth.
"It's kind of a technically demanding procedure," Coccaro said. "It went
fantastic. This was a life-or-death situation for her ... she's already eating
and she's gained weight."
Coccaro said Franco-Rosero, who works at an Internet cafe in Ecuador
earning $200 a month, had the cancer removed from her body, but that she may
require radiation in the future.
Franco-Rosero, who stayed with one of her nurses during recovery, has
regained most of her weight through the use of a feeding tube and is headed
back to Ecuador tomorrow.
Matar and Coccaro will meet with her again in May to remove the feeding
tube when they return to Ecuador to see other patients.
Last week, as she went to visit both doctors, whom she referred to as
"lifesavers," Franco-Rosero said, "I feel very good. I feel very happy and