Woman with dangerous vein disorder receives life-changing surgery
Warning: This article contains images that some readers may find disturbing.
Jennifer Funk Hiles from Huron, South Dakota has spent her entire life wanting to look normal. She wanted nothing more than to be able to walk down the street without having to deal with stares and strange reactions. Life has not been easy for Jennifer. She was born with a condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a deformation of the blood vessels which causes a vascular knot to develop directly under the skin.
As Jennifer grew older her facial deformities worsened; the large, pink birthmark began to expand over her entire face. In school she was bullied by her classmates and her first boyfriend would only talk to her when no one else was around. When others were looking, he turned his back and pretended not to know her.
One day Jennifer met a young man who was deserving of her love. Dustin Vanoverschelde didn't care what others thought or said; all he could see was Jennifer's beauty shining through. Since then the two have been inseparable and are now the proud parents of two healthy daughters.
Even though Jennifer had a happy family life, her condition still presented worries. AVM is a dangerous disorder that can lead to life-threatening internal bleeding and even heart failure. The knot under Jennifer's skin was not only affecting her appearance, but presented a danger that the slightest injury could cause the knot to rupture which would cause severe internal bleeding. Jennifer lived with the constant fear that her two children would be left without a mother. She knew she needed help but couldn't afford the necessary operation, so she created a website and asked for donations. Jennifer was stunned by the response: in only four days she received more than $17,000 from nearly 400 donors! Preparations for the operation began.
The operation involved the removal of the vascular knot from Jennifer's face and required some extreme measures. First they removed Jennifer's nose and used a piece of one of her ribs to create a prosthetic nose. To make sure they had enough skin tissue to form the nose, they implanted balloons under the skin on Jennifer's face and gradually pumped them full of saltwater. This expanded the skin bit by bit until there was enough to use for the operation.
Jennifer showed a tremendous amount of courage and openness during this whole process and her sense of humor had her Youtube fans in stitches. She even shined a laser pointer on one of her balloons so that it appeared like a big, pink bubble on her forehead.
The complicated surgery was now ready to begin and after a very long procedure, Jennifer's doctors initially declared the operation a success. But the healing process wasn't as smooth as they had hoped and the skin on Jennifer's face began to die. With the AVM threatening to come back, the doctors performed further operations. In the end they managed to remove all of the diseased tissue and give Jennifer a completely new face.
Jennifer and her family are, of course, very relieved. It was a long road to recovery, but Jennifer remained strong and can now look forward to a life without fear.
You can watch the story of her operation and courageous recovery in this video:
It's amazing to see Jennifer's lifelong wish come true, especially when one sees what she went through. She and Dustin are now married and their daughters are happy to know that their mother won't have to be so afraid anymore. Thanks to modern medical technology and a very strong will to live, this family now has a very bright future.