BENGALURU: Garima Kalita's ordeal started when she was diagnosed with head and neck cancer (fibromyxoid sarcoma), when she was 1 year, 9 months old, at the Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre in Narayana Health City here.
The 13-year-old from Assam had a relentlessly growing pediatric tumour which blocked her maxilla (upper jaw), nose and nasal cavity, forcing her to breathe with her mouth. Symptoms included repeated bleeding from the nose, and it also affected her overall growth.
"Removing the tumour, called debulking, was done in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Unfortunately, in 2017, the disease recurred more aggressively, with close proximity to intracranial contents or skull region. This affected her right eye, skull base, and extended to the dura which is the outermost cover of the brain. The eye had to be removed when she was 7 years old," said Dr Vijay Pillai, consultant and chief, Head and Neck Surgical Oncology, at Narayana Hospital.
In 2020, during follow-up, a small nodule (cancerous lump or tumour) was detected in her lungs, and removed with minimally invasive thoracoscopic surgery.
"She faced discrimination in school, as other kids saw her as a girl with one eye and avoided playing with her. She requested doctors to give her an artificial eye," Dr Pillai added. Garima got a midface silicone prosthesis which comes under the purview of maxillofacial prosthodontics, a branch of dentistry. Dr PC Jacob, consultant at Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre, stepped in to treat Garima, who needed a right eye, part of the forehead and nose.
"This was the largest defect I was going to rehabilitate with a silicone prosthesis (artificial body part). The difficulty was to retain such a large prosthesis. We fabricated customised 3D printed implants with magnets attached, which were fixed to the outer surface of the upper jaw," Dr Jacob said. "A customised eye shell was fabricated to match her eye, and natural hair was inserted one at a time, to make eyebrows and eyelashes." Some kajal made it look more natural.
Garima was instructed to remove the prosthesis at night and place it back in the morning unless she was travelling, and to clean around the implants. The procedure, done over 15 days ago, was successful, and Garima has since returned to her home state, with a facelift.