The doctors at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt performed, at no cost, the first of approximately four procedures on Joel in March. They were able to drain some of the excessive lymphatic fluid that collects on the left side of his face by using a modern ultrasound and X-ray system as a guide. Although the procedure was deemed a success, there is a chance the condition could return even after the remaining three procedures are complete. The reasons for the procedure are two-fold: Joel’s deformity could cause medical problems throughout his life, and the stigma of a facial deformity is significant. Often children don’t want to go to school for fear of being ostracized by other children.
Most days, Joel, a full-scholarship toddler student at Princeton Montessori School, goes about his days with the usual assortment of toddler activities: giggles, outside running time, climbing, sorting, singing, listening to stories, snacking, and generally enjoying life to the fullest. His host family, including Montessori teacher Shannon Tuorto, shower him with the same love and affection he would be receiving from his birth mother. They are confident that he will be able to return home to the Dominican Republic around September.