Every Student. Every Story-Lauretta Ekeh

A Cameron University student has the opportunity for a potentially life-changing surgery, but she will need some help to make it happen.

Lauretta Ekeh, who is earning her Master of Science in Behavioral Science, suffers from lymphangioma, a medical condition that causes malformations of the lymphatic system. The disease has caused severe growths on her face that not only adversely affect her appearance, but also make it extremely difficult for her to accomplish many daily tasks that most people take for granted.

"I find it difficult to communicate fluently in public. People don't hear me clearly when I talk," Ekeh said in a written statement. "I have to be extremely conscious of myself when I am with other people. I refrain from some things I would love to participate in because I'm afraid of embarrassing myself, for example, like engaging in a discussion with other people, eating out, etc. ... "

Dr. James Suen, a surgeon and the chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology (head and neck surgery) at the University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock, has volunteered to donate his services and perform a difficult surgery on Ekeh Dec. 19 at the medical school. Even with Suen's generous donation, there will be many expenses beyond what Ekeh's medical insurance will pay.

"I will need $20,000. This would be an out-of-pocket payment after the insurance pays. I would need to have it before Dec. 18," Ekeh said.

The doctor will remove part of Ekeh's tongue, put a weight in her eyelid, which does not close now, remove a plum-sized mass from her cheek and put a plate in the roof of her mouth.

After Ekeh recovers from the surgery, Suen believes he can control her lymphangioma with medication.

Ekeh, who is from Imo State, Nigeria, has friends at Cameron and at Cameron Baptist Church, who are helping her. Pat Delver and her family are Ekeh's host family while she is studying here in the United States. They will be helping her while she recovers from the surgery.

Ekeh said Jenny Breeden, program coordinator for the Southwest Area Health Education Center, has also helped her immensely.

Ekeh has had 17 previous procedures dating back to being diagnosed with lymphangioma at birth, but Suen's expertise in dealing with this medical issue gives her hope for a better future.

Her family in Nigeria is pleased with her chance to have the surgery. She said their main concern was who would be taking care of her after the procedure and they were glad to learn of the role Delver will play in Ekeh's recovery.

Please help Ekeh meet the amount she will have to pay for the surgery!
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Zeak Naifeh 
Lawton, OK
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