2009 Patients of Courage
Jane Escher was diagnosed at age 82 with an aggressive basal cell carcinoma on her nose, a cancer she successfully fought twice before. She sought the expertise of a MOHS' surgeon, but the cancer was more widespread than initially believed, and she was left with a large nasal defect that ended up requiring a forehead flap reconstruction.
Escher returned to work within a week, even though her reconstruction was not completely finished. She is an outreach nurse for the Shore Regional Breast Center giving uninsured women access to life-saving cancer screenings.
Escher is an inspiration to everyone around her, especially her young cancer patients, as they are inspired seeing an elder woman tackle the difficulties of skin cancer and reconstructive surgeries. She is a senior citizen who never let cancer slow her down in her quest to care for others as a nurse at the underserved Shore Regional Breast Center.
Abigail Hardin, a student at the University of Alabama in 2009, was born with a right cheek capillary vascular malformation - port wine stain. She received several laser treatments throughout her childhood to try to alleviate the malformation.
Based on her life experiences, Hardin recently published a children's book entitled Look at Me; I'm Just Like You, about a hippopotamus named Lucy who has a port wine stain on her cheek. Lucy is the subject of peer ridicule and teaches her classmates to accept and respect other children with facial and functional deformities. Hardin travels to schools to read her book to school children, giving both teachers and students the opportunity to increase their awareness of the self-esteem and emotional issues facing children perceived as "different."
Hardin also started a foundation called Open My Eyes whose sole purpose is to fund projects that promote character-development in children. A percentage of the sales of her book will go to support the ongoing mission of her foundation.
As a citizen of Baghdad, Iraq, Uday Hattem signed on as a translator for the U.S. Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In May, 2003, Hattem ventured out for supplies for the troops when he encountered a group of insurgents who shot him at close range in the face, neck and arm, leaving him for dead. He suffered facial deformities losing his right eye, cheek, palate and partial mandible.
In a twist of fate, the founder of Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF) met Hattem in an Iraqi hospital and sought aid from doctors in the United States. Hattem arrived in New York after receiving a Certificate of Honor for his heroism. He underwent microsurgical reconstruction of the cheek and orbit followed by facial flap rotation for soft tissue coverage. He also required bone grafts, nasal reconstruction, as well as numerous skin, cartilage, and fat grafts to improve the color and contour mismatch on his face.
Grateful for all he's been given, Hattem gives back to those in need by actively participating in the GMRF efforts to bring Iraqi children injured during war to the United States.
Janet Smith was diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma of her left breast and underwent lumpectomy. After chemo and radiation therapy, she developed inflammatory carcinoma invading the skin and lymph nodes. This was followed by 10 cycles of chemo, and she was given a poor prognosis. A latissimus dorsi flap was unsuccessful, and she was left with an extensive chest wall wound which had to be covered with skin grafts. She recently developed inflammatory disease in the right breast and underwent a right mastectomy with advancement flap for closure.
Smith's spirits remained high throughout her numerous surgical procedures and therapies. Next to her family, music is her joy. She volunteers with the music program at McKinley Senior High School teaching children the gift of music. Smith leads the FACES of Stark County, an agency of parents who have been successful navigating the various systems for their own children and now help other parents find appropriate services for their children.