By Josh Saunders
A brave boy battling massive watermelon sized tumours in his face that could choke him to death is defying the bullies who call him ‘MONSTER’.
Little Mateo de Jesús Márquez Juárez, four, from Xalapa, Veracruz in Mexico, has lymphangioma that caused deadly cysts to grow in his chin, neck and face.
His malformations were identified during a five-month ultrasound, with doctors advising parents Arianna and Abelardo, 32 and 39, to abort their child because he ‘would not survive’.
Miraculously, after the birth a breathing tube and g-tube helped keep him alive and since then he has defied all odds, while his cysts continue to swell to the size of a large watermelon.
Brave Mateo regularly defies the stares from strangers and comments from fellow schoolchildren who have called him ‘monster’.
Now after two operations and medication to reduce the tumours they are apple-sized, but his family are fundraising for more treatment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, USA.
It’s hoped they will be able to remove some of the loose skin left by the malformations as well as shrinking and draining other cysts to give Mateo a better life.
Arianna Juárez Ramírez, a preschool teacher, said: “The doctor noticed and explained my son’s illness, I expected to find out the sex of my baby but what doctors discovered was a congenital malformation.
“As a mother I felt powerless, I wish it was me who had to suffer the disease not my son.
“I collapsed for a moment and cried, I begged that the doctor had made a mistake with the diagnosis, I prayed and asked for strength.
“Doctors didn’t believe I should continue the pregnancy, they didn’t believe Mateo would survive and even if he was born he would not live for a long time.
“Because the tumour was so was very large it was compromising his neck, face and his ability to breathe.
“On several occasions doctors suggest that I abort Mateo, but my husband and I could not understand why because he was alive, moving and I could feel him inside me.
“After he was born he was connected to breathing apparatus and thankfully survived.
“In the hospital, he was kept in an incubator in the intensive neonatal care unit to keep him stable, but they did not have the medical equipment to help him.
“After transferring to a hospital Mexico City, they cut part of his malformation and fitted a tracheostomy cannula because he couldn’t breathe on his own due to the large microcysts.#
“The microcysts had enveloped his trachea making it difficult for air to flow to the airway, which is why the tracheostomy helped him to breathe independently.
“Now he has had, two surgeries to cut away parts of the tumour, a tracheostomy, a gastronomy tube and special drug Mateo has been on has acted wonderfully and helped reduce the cysts.
“Before the treatment, his face was much larger, his scars were tense and pulled to the side, his cheeks were very large.
“Mateo’s tumours were the size of a large melon before and now the numerous small cysts are around the size of an apple.
“His face today is soft, it’s beautiful, you can feel his jaw on both sides of his face and around his chin bone the microcysts were greatly diminished.”
Mum-of-two Arianna was initially shocked to hear her son’s diagnosis at a routine five-month ultrasound, instead of finding out her baby’s gender she was confronted with the deadly diagnosis.
Lymphangiomas is caused by a defect of the lymphatic system that means non-malignant malformations can form anywhere in the body.
Arianna said: “I felt a lot of pain and impotence because doctors explained that Mateo would be bedridden unable to move and may have Down’s Syndrome.
“Thankfully we had strength and decided before any medical diagnosis that Mateo should continue to grow in my womb.”
In public, strangers stare at Mateo and make comments about the size of his cysts leading mum Arianna to worry about how people will treat her son in the future.
She said: “People stare at Mateo, especially the children, and make comments, I fear her will be rejected when people look at him.
“There are children who in games choose Mateo to be the one that chases them, the one that must catch them and called him ‘the monster’.
“I just want to make it clear that Mateo is a very strong child and he ignores many comments from them
“We have also learned to make “deaf ears” and to go ahead since the people who love Mateo are in great number.
“We learn in this way to be strong, sometimes we know that children often do not understand what they are saying.
“It is a complicated situation because we must know how to act intelligently as parents and understand that our mission is hard.
“In my eyes Matteo has always looked beautiful, we love his cheekbones and even the malformation.
“He is a happy and brave boy with lots of light, life and strength, he attends kindergarten, sings, dances and participate in all activities.”
The family are now fundraising for surgery in Cincinnati, USA, in two months’ time that will remove excess skin left by the tumours and reduce the cysts allowing him greater freedom.
Despite his facial differences mum Arianna says her son is a happy young boy who does not let his problems affect him.
Arianna said: “Since the treatment at Cincinnati Children’s hospital, his microcysts have been disappearing and the growth has stopped.
“After almost two years of taking sirolimus, the trachea is slowly being released and the air has begun flowing through the mouth and nose
“Before he was not able to swallow and we had to feed him through a gastrostomy tube but he’s making a lot of progress now.
“In December, the surgery they will perform will remove skin that already hangs on Mateo due to the reduction of the tumor, also it will remove cysts and drain lymph fluid from the malformation.
“They will operate the entire right side of their face, which is already left over and will reshape his face.
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