Extraordinary People: The Girl with a New Face - Monday October 15

extraordinary people: the girl with a new face

Five’s acclaimed documentary strand comes to the end of another batch of absorbing programmes exploring remarkable stories of human experience. Tonight’s programme follows the incredible story of Marlie Casseus, a Haitian teenager who required pioneering surgery to remove a seven-kilo growth from her face.

In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 13-year-old Marlie is dying. Because of a rare genetic condition known as fibrous dysplasia, Marlie’s bones are transforming into a huge growth, or lesion, that distorts her face, stretches her skin, crushes her windpipe and forces her eyes apart. “People here say that this is a curse, not a normal disease,” says Marlie’s mother, Maleine. “They say it is voodoo stuff.”

With time running out for their daughter, Marlie’s family contacted two US-based Haitian nurses, sisters Gina and Ginette Eugene, who called on an American charity for help. The International Kids Fund immediately arranged for Marlie to be airlifted to a Miami hospital, two hours away, where the world’s media was waiting for a press conference addressed by one of the few specialists who could save Marlie: Venezuelan-born maxillofacial surgeon Dr Jesús Gómez.

Marlie’s case of fibrous dysplasia is the most extreme in medical history: her seven-kilo lesion weighs more than her head and she has to support it with her hands. She is also in constant pain and in danger of going blind. Dr Gómez’s only hope of saving his young patient’s life is to remove the whole lesion in a pioneering, but lifethreatening operation, and insert synthetic bones. “Nobody has attempted to do a surgery that is this big in a patient this young,” Dr Gómez explains. The operation is costing $95,000 – money raised by the International Kids Fund.

At 7.30am on the day of the operation, the surgeons and family know that this will be the turning point in Marlie’s life. Dr Gómez is aware that the procedure could either change or end Marlie’s life – there are great risks from bleeding and infection. As the operation gets underway, Dr Gómez and the team remove huge parts of the mid-section of Marlie’s face and, incredibly, manage to reconstruct her nose. At the end of the 17-hour procedure, Marlie has 2,500 stitches in her face – but she can now hold her head up, and wants to see herself in a mirror for the first time in five years.

Six weeks later, Marlie is free from pain for the first time in years, and can even smile. Dr Gómez is confident that she will eventually look “pretty close to normal”, because he knows she will put in the necessary effort. “We gave her a new chance,” he says proudly. “We gave her hope.” However, Marlie’s ordeal is by no means over. She must now endure another operation to remove the lower part of the lesion and replace it with an artificial, titanium jaw. After the diseased parts are cut away, carefully avoiding damaging the delicate nerves of the mouth and tongue, the new jaw is screwed into place.

After a few weeks’ healing, Marlie is looking forward to being reunited with her father and sisters, who are coming over from Haiti to see her. “I lost Marlie, but now I have her back,” says her father, Michel. “Marlie was dying, but now she is dancing.” The family return to Haiti, where Marlie recieves VIP treatment from the community that had previously shunned her.

One year later, Marlie can pass unnoticed in a crowd. She still faces more reconstructive surgery, as well as physio and speech therapy, but her face has healed, she has gained weight and, after another operation, she can speak again. “Since everyone is so kind to me now, and my face looks nice,” she says, “I no longer feel like I want to die. Now I can have hope.”

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  • AnonymousEric Dubuis

    I would really like to know how the situation is evolving for Marlie, if the reconstructive surgery is going well, ans if her main state of health increase with time.
    Please, could you keep us informed of the futur of her condition on your web site ?

  • JDesigns

    Marlie journey from contracting such a rear disease and keeping her faith at a young age should make us all feel proud. She has a fantastic family that has always loved her and it was them that made her journey that little bit easier. We must not forget the doctor (Dr) Jesús Gómez who performed the operation and the charities that supported her with the finance to allow her to get the treatment she so badly needed. When I see a story like Marlie’s it make me feel proud of who I am and what I have. I wish Marlie all the best and may all her dreams come true.

  • Anonymous

    I was really moved watching Marlie’s story tonight. She really is an amazing human being. Going through what she has and still managing to smile and dance. I would also really like to know how her reconstructive surgery is going.

  • Anonymous

    I was moved to tears by Marlie’s story. My first question was why do they leave it so late to find help, yes I know its difficult for these people, but at the end of the day its your childs life that is at stake. I would like to follow her journey to its end, to see what she will look like after reconstructive surgery etc. Will the condition come back with the same consequences? I hope to god that it doesn’t this poor girl has been through more than most people go through in a life time in just a few years. I also felt for her when she was brought home and paraded in front of the people who shunned her previously, that must have been so hard on Marlie, her emotions would have been all over the place. I felt the last thing she needed was to be shoved out to meet those who had hurt her in the past.
    I hope she goes from strength to strength her courage is an inspiration to us all.

  • Anonymous

    Marlie’s is a strong young lady. As young as she is she still kept her head up during and after her surgery. I am truely intriged and would like to know what happened next and if the DOCTOR was about to remove her diseased bones and if reconstructive surgrey made a look “normal” enough for her to continue her bright life as a prosporous woman. Please keep me informed.

  • Kirsty and Oonagh

    Marlie is such a brave young girl with a bright future ahead of her, we wish her all the best with fourth coming sugery and hope that she reaches all her dreams in life.
    Love Kirsty and Oonagh

  • Laura and Sheena

    From watching the documentary on Marlie’s condition we really felt for what she was going through at such a young age.
    We hope that she will have every success in life and hope that reconstructive sugery will improve her facial features.
    All the best xxxx

  • darling chikanya

    i was really moved when i saw this young pretty girl almost destroyed by the greedy hands of death. she was brave in her condition and the bravest in the world i would say because she didn’t even give after her ordeal; i really pray to GOD that she undergoes other operations successfully and become the preety girl she used to be and is. i would say her case was really touching,heart-wrenching and lachrymal.

  • dave 2701

    marlie is truly an amazing young girl to go through all the pain and trauma of her condition and still remain so strong i wish i was half as strong as her. i have watched many similar programs in the past but must admit marlie’s story really touched me i was in tears watching what that girl had to go through. PLEASE could you keep us updated on marlie’s progress. may god be with her and grant her everything she wishes. x x x

  • Ms Campbell

    This is amazing, God works in a mysterious way, I am proud of this little girl, Marlie’s story makes me realised the little things that worries me as an adult is absolutely rubbish. Sweetie God is working through you to show the people of Haiti that he is still at the control. Maleine, continue to be faithful to word of God, God is working through Dr Gomez, your daughter’s breakthrough is well on it’s way. I wish Marlie all the best throughout the surgeries, I will be praying for you.

  • Ms Campbell

    Would it be possible to meet this little Angel???????????????? I do hope so, even if it means traveling to Haiti I am prepared to so. I need to know how I can get in touch with this family.


    I was very upset for her, how could a child with good sense of humour cheerfull vibrant preety, full of live go through this……….. God is able to do exeedingly abandatly, many people do not believe in miracles but this is a true miracle, its a testimony that Marlie for ever, l wish her the best and l would really like to know how l can meet her and invite her to England for holiday if possible. please keep me informed,about how to be intouch with her. She is my inspiration…….I DONT KNOW YOU MARLIE BUT I LOVE YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING STRONG AND POSITIVE. XX

  • Danny

    I watched this program when i was in work and seeing what this poor girl has gone through moved me deeply.To have gone through the pain and still come out full of joy and love,this girl is truly amazing,to see her dancing and giving her family the loving hugs this wonderful girl will always have a place in my heart.I wish Marlie all the very best in her future.x x x

  • magdalena

    please contact with me about Marlie condition……at the present time…..i ‘ll always pray for her….i am in tears..and i can’t say..more…i fell so sorry for her….GOOD BLESS YOU PRINCESS……..XXXX

  • Kerryleigh

    It broke my family hearts to witness this little girl go through so much pain, and uncomfort emotionally and physically, but it was beautiful to see the support from her friends and family.She is a brave strong, lovely girl. the transformation of her surgery was amazing. please keep me up to date on how she is doing now via email.
    My family and I wish her all the best and hope her dreams are fulfilled!xxxx

  • Anonymous

    she should make us feel really lucky for being ‘normal’! I think she is reallly brave and my hero

  • sam

    omggggggggggggggggg i feeeeel so hurt for this lil angel she is so brave and im happy for her loadzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz and i wish her the very best in her future i knoe for a fact i wudnt b as brave as her buh she gives hop eto everyone in da world and i praise her deeplyyyy
    tc yeh and i luv u

  • Kat

    I saw Marlie’s story last night and it brought tears to my eyes, I hope all is going well for her and I wish her the very best for the future.

  • Tiffany

    We who are blessed to live in countries like the UK, USA and Canada take things in life for granted. When we see this kind of issues being brought to public attention, may we all remember that every breath of life is by the grace of God. May we all thank the Lord our God for the blessings he bestows on us, and may we continue to pray for those all around us, and especially special kids such as Marlie.

  • Tracey

    I have just watched Marlie’s story and i have the greatest respect for this young girl. Her courage and positive thinking puts me to shame. I wish her all the very best for the future and think that she is the bravest person i have ever seen. At the end of the programe she said she did not know if any one would want to marry her, or if she would have children. I know that there is somebody for everybody in this world. he will have to be very specil to deserve a wonderful young girl like Marlie. God bless you.

  • Xanadu

    I watched Marlie’s story last night. I sincerely hope that we get to see the next stage of her journey when she has further plastic surgery. I echo the comments of others; we are so lucky that we live in countries like the UK, US etc. As for God working in mysterious ways – rubbish! Marlie’s life has been saved by a kind, caring surgeon and his team, and the cost of the operation is being funded by kind, caring people who are willing to give as much or as little money as they can.

    I admire her courage and determination and sincerely wish her well on her journey to her ‘new face’; we could all learn a lesson or two from her.

  • Anonymous

    She is really brave and beautiful little girl! you are doing very well

  • tomcatdude

    i feel so bad for.i was with my mom when the show was on tv.i was crying all day and night.after the first 4 surgrys she looked really pretty better than before.and she said she wanted to find a guy plus she knows she will get married.please keep updating this.

  • Anonymous 2

    This documentary was very upsetting, that girl was so nice and lively and something so cruel had to happen to her. While i was watching i felt lucky and that i would give up something of mine i really would not choose to get rid of just to let that girl become normal again…


    This documentary is very amazing one which has really changed my life, the day I watched it I could feel the love and the presence of the LORD. This documentary can be used as a tool to all people to follow the Christian life. BRAVO to video crew who did the documentary u r rilly good. I wish if I could work with you sometime. BRAVO!!!

    • What of the suffering she was put through, or the countless kids & good adults out there that don’t get to have the surgery they need and die or spend their lives suffering? That is what I learned spending a lot of time in pediatric wards to have my birth defects surgically corrected, seeing roommates die or suffer horribly: the god I was told to believe in is supposedly omnipotent & omniscient so he doesn’t need to torture kids/adults/animals to achieve a certain result (like teaching them something), and that means that if he exists, he is either willingly allowing all of those horrible things to happen or he’s sadistic enough to cause it.

      My life was saved repeatedly & improved immensely by my amazing childhood surgeon plus the nurses & other doctors — people, not a deity. God as I was taught to believe in him was a loving being that wouldn’t cherry-pick who to save, and I won’t worship a deity that allows or causes the kinds of things I’ve seen, if he even exists. (FWIW I’m an agnostic that was raised Catholic, not a part of the atheist movement that harasses religious folks like my family members & friends.)

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