The family of a baby girl with a disfiguring facial tumor traveled halfway around the world in search of the answer to their prayers, finding it in a New York City surgeon who understood perfectly their worry and pain.
Just days before her first birthday, baby Noor Nunez and her family flew over 6,300 miles from Kuwait City to meet Dr. Gregory Levitin, a vascular birthmark specialist and head-and-neck surgeon, and learn if he could treat a non-cancerous hemangioma on Noor’s face that was growing rapidly.
Levitin told the Daily News he got into his specialty because his own daughter, now 18, had a vascular birthmark.
“I know what it’s like to have this child with a birthmark and you’re looking for answers,” he said to Noor’s parents.
The baby’s family was ecstatic, after a year of anxiety about their daughter’s future.
"When she was born it was only a simple scratch,” Noor’s mother, Ranya Al-Mutairi, 37, told The News.
And when Noor’s worried parents asked doctors at home about it, they assured her it would resolve on its own.
But Noor’s growth was a hemangioma that affected not only the skin but the tissue underneath, and it continued to grow. When she was six months old, it began to cover her right eye and distort her nose. Medicine didn’t help, her mother said.
“I just literally wrapped it up in email and sent that whole email to multiple people,” said Nunez. “With Dr. Levitin actually, he was the only one that, as soon as I sent an email, he would reply back quickly. Some of the other people I would have to wait three to four weeks.”
On July 18, the family began a 16-hour flight from Kuwait City to see if Levitin was the help they’d been praying for. Noor’s siblings Hidayah, 8, Eesa, 5, and Omar, 3 1/2, stayed in Crown Heights once they arrived.
Levitin performed the two-and-a-half hour surgery on Noor at Mount Sinai Hospital on July 24.
There is also new medication that Noor will take, and it’ll be it will be shipped to the military base where Nunez works. The family will stay in touch with Levitin through email and WhatsApp, sending photos of Noor throughout her healing.
“He was really on it,” Nunez.
Baby Noor babbled and cooed during a recent doctor’s visit, a testament to her spirit, her mother said.
“She’s great, shockingly,” said Al-Mutairi, gazing at her daughter in her arms. “She is really brave and strong. I thought it would go harder for her.”