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Saturday, June 24, 2000

Doctors put a
good face on tragedy

By Helen Altonn


Four Honolulu medical specialists are donating their services to restore the appearance of a Filipino nurse whose face was crushed in a traffic accident.

"Thanks to God. Thanks for the Aloha Medical Mission. My face will not be reconstructed, if not for them," Marilou Parel said, as she prepared to undergo the complicated surgery today.

She also thanked nurses in the Philippines who helped her make the trip here.

Parel, 40, had sought treatment from Aloha Medical Mission volunteers who were recently in her Pangasinan province.

Marilou Parel's face was crushed and she lost an
eye in a traffic accident. Doctors will reconstruct
the crushed orbit in her eye, restore bones normally
surrounding the eye, and, about eight weeks later,
will give her an artificial eye.

But her injuries were too complex to be repaired there, said Dr. Jorge G. Camara, mission vice-president and spokesman. It was decided to bring her to Hawaii for surgery "to restore her ability to function, her appearance and her dignity."

Describing her injuries from an April, 1998, accident, Camara said, "It's a very tragic story. Her whole face is crushed; her bones are crushed. She doesn't have half of her face, virtually. She does not have an eye."

Her left eye had to be removed and couldn't be replaced with an implant because of lack of ophthalmological equipment, he said.

Parel said she was in a coma for two weeks after a collision involving a truck, bicycle and her motorbike. She was so disfigured she was unable to work after the accident, Camara said. "She's a health-care giver, so imagine the trauma she feels, not just physically, but emotionally as well."

Camara, an ophthalmologist, will perform the eye surgery with other Medical Mission volunteers -- Dr. Don Parsa, plastic surgeon; Dr. Elfren Baria, anesthesiologist; and ocularist Dos Tannehill, who makes artificial eyes.

St. Francis Medical Center is donating all the surgical time, supplies and technology, Camara said.

He will be using the hospital's InstaTrak, a computer-image guiding device that helps physicians track the positions of their instruments in eye and nasal surgery.

Camara said he will reconstruct the crushed orbit in Parel's eye, restore the crushed bones normally surrounding the eye, and put in an implant. About eight weeks later, Tannehill will give her an artificial eye.

Parsa also will perform a very complicated procedure. He said he will take bone from Parel's hip to reshape and give structure to her nose. He may also have to take skin from elsewhere to cover the bony framework of the new nose.

"It's complex because she has a very bad injury with infection and severe scarring, and tissues have become quite tight and unpliable," Parsa said.

Today's surgery will take six to eight hours and a second stage will follow later.

Parsa said the goal is to give Parel "as natural appearance as possible so she can become socially comfortable and socially acceptable by the public. Right now, she obviously feels rejected; she feels she doesn't belong to the mainstream of people."

Parel is "a very insightful lady, extremely intelligent and most sensitive," Parsa said. "I think it's the sensitivity that probably makes her more vulnerable to her deformity, even though she doesn't express it loudly."

"I think it's special that we are helping someone who, herself, is a nurse," Camara said, adding that he believes the experience will enrich her professionally.

Parel will be here about two months as a guest of Lolita Ching, a nurse volunteer with the medical missions.

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