A woman with an incurable disease has a new outlook on life thanks to the generosity of surgeons in Southern California.
At an early age, tumors began to grow on Ana Rodarte's face. By age 25, her advanced neurofibromatosis had deformed the left side of her face, leaving her homebound and unable to see out of one eye.
Neurofibromatosis, often inaccurately identified as "Elephant Man's Disease," is a disorder of the nervous system, which causes tumors to grow on nerves and produces other abnormalities. It occurs in one in 3,000 people in the United States. As many as 100,000 Americans suffer from the condition.
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In correspondence with the Los Angeles Times, Rodarte said she had given up on a career, marriage and having children.
But thanks to Doctors Offering Charitable Services, Rodarte's disease is now in check.
The group's founders, Dr. Munish Batra and Dr. Michael Halls, brought the case to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. For the past three years, DOCS and the hospital have worked free of charge, providing more than $500,000 in medical care and services.
"Tragically, this disease can be more than a medical condition, but Ana refused to let a disease rob her of her dignity and worth as a person," Halls said. "The DOCS surgeons and Scripps provided services and care free of charge, but this is without a doubt the most rewarding work we have ever done."
Since 2005, she has undergone four surgeries at Scripps La Jolla to successfully transform the left side of her face.
There is no cure for Rodarte's disease. She is currently enrolled in cosmetology school and is looking to help others dealing with neurofibromatosis.
"The world is filled with kindness and generosity, and I am thankful for it," Rodarte said.