Four-year-old Huynh was born in a small village in Vietnam with a condition known as congenital hairy nevus. It is a type of large mole, and for many with the condition, including Huynh, it has coarse hair growing out of it. Although most hairy nevi are benign, they can occasionally turn into malignant melanoma.
We first met Huynh in 2013 on one of our surgical outreach team trips to Phan Rang, Vietnam. At that time, the nevus extended from her neck up to her forehead, including over her eyelid. When she was five months old, Huynh's father abandoned her and the family and will have nothing to do with them, despite the fact that he still lives in the same village and passes their house each day. Huynh's mother left school after the ninth grade and can only find work occasionally, so they live with Huynh's grandparents.
Huynh is in school now, but the other children tease her because of her condition and will not play with her. Her only friend is a cousin who attends the same school.
But Huynh has the chance to lead a life free of stigma and rejection because of the work of our surgical volunteers. Last year our team performed a procedure to remove part of the nevus from her lower left cheek and placed a skin graft over the area, which took well.
This year, we sent another surgical team to Phan Rang, and Huynh's mother brought her back to the hospital where the team is operating to receive further treatment. Our volunteer team removed the nevus from her upper lip, nose and left cheek area, and she is recovering remarkably well.
Our surgeons believe she will require at least one more procedure to completely remove the nevus, so we expect to see her again on next year's trip. Huynh's mother is very happy and hopeful that once her treatment is complete, her daughter will be spared the danger of skin disease and will be able to grow up without psychological pain or stigma.