When the Chinese orphanage workers gazed into the cardboard box, they instantly knew why the baby was there.
A massive black growth obscured about one-third of the delicate features of the baby with no name. The potentially deadly mask was considered bad luck.
Experience foretold this would be a baby with no family and no future. But an Oklahoma couple's arms ached to hold a special baby with no name.
Amy and Benjamin Root, of Oklahoma City, found their girl on an international adoption agency's child waiting list. Looking beyond the black mask, Amy Root fell for the baby's big, brown eyes. She immediately knew the child would join son Bobby, now 16, and daughter, Abby, now 15.
Today, that baby has grown into 3-year-old Margaret “Maisy” Root, a healthy child who is focused on begging her mother to let her get her ears pierced and hair dyed orange, like Jessie the yodeling cowgirl in “Toy Story.”
An adoption official told Amy Root that she saved the child's life.
“I didn't save Maisy's life. But I loved her enough and was smart enough to take her to the man who could,” Amy Root said.
‘I'll be forever thankful'
This week, the family celebrated Maisy's third birthday and the anniversary of the removal of the giant nevus and facial reconstruction by the surgical team of Ivan Wayne, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, P. Lloyd Hildebrand, an ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgeon, and Jose Sanclement, a microvascular and facial reconstructive surgery specialist, all with OU Physicians.
“I'll be forever thankful to the team of doctors who saved her life,” Amy Root said.
The doctors said they were initially nervous about taking on such a large nevus and wondered about waiting a bit to perform the initial surgery, which would ultimately be followed by eight additional procedures over about a year.
“I was a little scared because that's a really, really big mass to tackle,” Wayne said. “There's a lot of potential things could go wrong. But our hand was forced by the long-term potential risk of Maisy developing a life-threatening melanoma.”
Hildebrand remembers how a confident Maisy took charge in the minutes and hours leading up to the complicated surgery.
On surgery day last winter, Maisy slid a surgical mask on her Woody “Toy Story” doll and called out to the doctors and nurses, “Let's go!”
So they did.
Expanders had been placed on Maisy's head and in her chest before the surgery to help make sure surgeons had enough tissue to cover the void left after the nevus was removed.
Wayne said at one point after the nevus was removed, he found himself looking at a gigantic void in Maisy's face and too little skin to cover it. So he borrowed some skin from the forehead, sliding it carefully into place. He wanted to avoid skin grafts if possible so that the skin would look healthier and smoother.