An eleven-year-old boy with a giant growth on his neck has been saved by a risky surgery

Scroll down for the full story




The growth, called a lymphangioma, was rough and scaly and formed painful cysts

Jose Antonio Ramires Serrano, from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, had a life-threatening growth that partially blocked his windpipe and put pressure on his heart and lungs.

Thanks to missionaries and US officials Jose travelled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for life saving treatment.

Positive outlook: Jose has a big heart despite the problems he's been through

The growth, called a lymphangioma, was rough and scaly and formed painful cysts.

Jose was prevented from riding his bike, swimming, or running, in case he fell and began bleeding dangerously. He was also stared at in the street due the size and weight of the growth.

Jose couldn't ride a bike with the growth as he may have fallen over and damaged the tumour

But after missionaries from the First Baptist Church of Rio Ranch spotted him in the poverty-stricken city of Ciudad Juarez, Jose was brought to New Mexico on a medical visa, in the hope of finding a cure.

Doctors were hopeful injections of a new drug - Sildenafil, otherwise known as Viagra, - would reduce the growth because of the problems of operating on Jose while his airway was restricted.

Weight off his shoulders: Jose can look forward to a healthy life without the large growth on his neck

But after a year and a half of the unusual treatment – which has shown signs of success in younger children – doctors realised it was not helping.

And instead of getting better, Jose began to suffer from dangerous infections.

What a turnaround: Jose's life was very different last year

Doctors had been reluctant to operate on the lymphangioma, a mixed veinous and lymphatic growth, because of the blood vessels and risk of infection.

But despite the risk, surgeons decided it was time to operate to save Jose’s life.

Happy family: Jose and his father, Jose Snr, and his mother Cindi after the successful surgery

Jose said before the operation: “I’m anxious and nervous because I’ve never had an operation in my life.”

His father Jose Snr. said: “We have other children younger than Jose and we’ve had to make sacrifices. They understand that it’s for their brother. 

After a complicated 16 hour surgery the bulk of Jose's growth was removed

“They know that it will all turn out well. And now the time has come, we are happy because we are thinking ahead, of the future, thinking of what is good for him. For this reason I feel happy.”

His mother Cindi said: “After the surgery I want to see him able to ride his bike, to play football, to play with his siblings, more than he has been able to so far.”

The growth no longer restricts him from living his life like any other boy

A team of 12 surgeons, led by Paediatric Surgeon Cynthia Reyes at the University of New Mexico Hospital, operated on young Jose for 16 hours.

But the procedure was fraught with complications and Jose’s parents were worried after only a 30cm by 10cm portion was removed.

Despite complications in the surgery Jose bounced back to health

Dr Reyes said: “Unfortunately we encountered a lot of bleeding and we almost replaced his whole blood line, and that’s when we decided to stop.”

Family portrait: Jose can now play with his brothers and sisters

But despite the unexpected outcome, surprisingly, Jose has completely bounced back from the surgery – and the growth has shrunk.

Jose's parents moved their family to New Mexico from the deprived city of Ciudad Juarez

He said: “At first I was swollen and then overnight the mass had completely disappeared.

“I’m no longer carrying so much weight now I can lift my arm up a lot more. I’m so much happier.

Jose has high hopes for the future - he wants to study and become a mechanic

“I feel a lot less worried than before. I feel in a lot less danger than before, even though the growth is still there.”

Doctors say the scar tissue caused the lymphangioma to shrink down in the months after the surgery.

Jose used to be stared at in the streets with his large growth

Now Jose is just like any other boy – playing in the street and riding his bicycle. He has now recovered so well the whole family has been able to go back to their home in Mexico.

And he has high hopes for his future thanks to the team of American doctors.

Thanks to US missionaries and doctors Jose has a new lease of life

He said: “The doctors and pastors from the Church have helped us a lot, my family and me, and, they have really helped. We are thankful towards them.

“For the future I want to study, finish university, work, have a family, and then become a mechanic.”

Jose's story appears in the new series of Body Bizarre, on Thursday August 20th, 9pm, on TLC