A teen recently underwent a one-in-a-million surgery at Northwell Health.
Taina Contreras, a 19-year-old student from Briarwood, Queens, knows she has a lot to smile about these days. Her new sense of confidence stems from a very rare surgery to correct congenital facial differences performed by Northwell Health New Hyde Park plastic surgeon Dr. James Bradley.
Contreras was just five months old when she had her first surgery to correct an open cleft lip. Since birth, she has endured more than 21 surgeries—sometimes two or three in a year---to correct abnormalities in her face and eye formation.
“Taina was born with the very rare Tessier #4 Craniofacial Cleft, which is so rare that we believe it occurs in only one of a million births," Dr. Bradley said.
In addition to the first surgery in her infancy, Contreras has had multiple eyelids, lip, and nose procedures. Not only were many of these operations painful and required months of recovery, but they failed to truly correct the facial differences.
During a reunion with Dr. Bradley more than a month after surgery, Contreras reflected on the frequent episodes of cruelty and violence that she had to endure because of her appearance.
“I’m speaking out because I hope that no one else would ever have to endure what I had to go through because of my appearance,” said Contreras. “For me, it was important not to give up and to strive for a normal life.”
Towards that end, Contreras has channeled her energies into her studies. Recently, she received a scholarship to NYU, where she is currently studying electrical engineering.
“We may have scars on our faces, but under all that, we’re just the same as everyone else,” said Contreras. “We want to be loved and respected, just like the rest of the world.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.