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Surgeons To Perform Life-Saving Operation On Young Girl With Facial Tumor

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A pair of New York surgeons is using groundbreaking medical techniques to rescue a baby girl from a massive tumor on her face.

As CBS2's Dave Carlin reported, the life-saving surgery set for Wednesday is a gift the family has been waiting for.

Sandy Diaz, of Corona, Queens, has sparkling eyes. But she also has a tumor on her right cheek that is nearly as big as her head.

The tumor has left Sandey sadly too familiar with doctors' offices.

Sandy was born that way last summer. Repeated non-surgical efforts to shrink the giant mass on her face and chin kept failing.

So Sandy and parents Maricela and Herry moved to a crucial and risky next step.

"The day has arrived where God willing, she's going to be able to, you know, get rid of this," Maricela Benite said through an interpreter.

"This is one of the most extreme examples," said Dr. Teresa O explained. "The malformation sits all the way through and goes behind the airway."

O and Dr. Milton Waner of Northwell Health Lenox Hill Hospital are a surgical dream team for removing the big non-cancerous cluster of lymphatic vessels and fluid.

Dr. Waner is world-renowned in his field.

"Anatomically, everything is distorted," Waner said. "The nerves are not in the right place."

The surgery that will dramatically improve Sandy's life involves pioneering medical techniques that even weren't around 20 years ago when Dr. Waner started his important work.

"In the olden days, we had to wait for the patient to fully wake up and determine whether or not we damaged anything irreparably," he said.

Now, advanced electrical monitoring shows doctors where the nerves are and how they're responding to surgery.

It is expected to take 5 hours to remove 90 percent of the mass, with results doctors hope will be similar to another patient who had a similar tumor at age 2 and looked nearly normal by age 9.

"We're helping a child live and look normal," Waner said. "I don't think there's a bigger gift."

In the weeks after Wednesday's operation, Sandy should start eating by mouth and breathing without a tube.

Benite said her four other children are protective, and Sandy will returns to their loving home as a miracle baby.

The surgeons are volunteering their skills for the Diaz family, saying no child in such a condition is ever turned away.

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