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Doctors save Ecuador mom

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

doctors.

"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

content."

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