The new year brings new dreams, new joys and the ever-present resolution that you’ll finally do what you didn’t last year. But, for one New South Wales family the new year brings the hope that their 7-month-old daughter will get the help that she needs.
Born with a skin condition called Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (or CMN), Ruby Ashby has a hair-covered birthmark that takes up roughly one-quarter of her face.
According to Nevus Support Australia, severe CMN is rare and may only affect as few as 1 in 500,000 newborns. The medical care that Ruby needs to remove her birthmark doesn’t include just one surgery.
Instead, the 7-month-old will need at least seven separate operations. The first operation alone will run the family $10,000. The next four (which she will need in the upcoming year) will cost a total of $40,000.
With the high cost of the surgeries, the family has started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds to pay for the medical expenses. The Ashby’s (by way of generous donations) have raised the money to pay for the first in Ruby’s series of surgeries. Set for 12 January, the surgery won’t remove any of the birthmark. This initial operation involves inserting a silicone balloon just under the baby’s skin (in an area unaffected by the birthmark). Doctors will gradually inflate the balloon with saline over the course of several weeks. This allows the skin to stretch, providing an area large enough to cover Ruby’s upper right face. Doctors will use the fresh skin to replace the area where the birthmark is.
Ruby’s aunt Ashleigh Morris says, on their Go Fund Me page, “The support from every single person who has donated to Ruby has really touched the whole family’s hearts. We can not begin to express how thankful we are with the generosity so many people have shown especially around this time of year where families do find it tough themselves financially.”
Without the generous donations of family, friends and strangers who just want to help, Ruby’s surgery wouldn’t be possible. Along with the Go Fund Me campaign, the family is sponsoring a fundraiser at the Royal Motor Boat Yacht Club in Port Hacking on the 16th of January, 2016.
With the surgical risks and financial expenses involved, why go through the removal process? Even though plenty of people live full, happy and healthy lives with moles on their skin, CMN can come with medical problems. Nevus Support Australia notes that the risks of untreated CMN include malignant melanoma, skin problems, neurological problems (such as dryness, itching, fragility and overheating) and psychological challenges. This doesn’t mean that every person with CMN will develop all, or any for that matter, of these problems. But, they are possibilities that should be addressed.
Along with health issues, the psychological stress of a severe CMN is a major reason for removal procedures. Ruby’s aunt Ash describes the little girl as being like any other 7-month-old,
“She has a cheeky smile and such as happy personality with a contagious laugh and has been so lucky to be brought into a family who love her unconditionally.”
Indeed, Ruby is fortunate to have the love and support of her family. That said, growing up with CMN often means facing the psychological burden that comes along with teasing and bullying. Often times the love and kind words of mum and dad sadly don’t overshadow the mean words of peers. This makes the removal surgeries even more important. Even though looks shouldn’t matter and it’s what’s inside the counts, for children it’s often a challenge to ignore the outward appearance. Especially when it isn’t the ‘expected’.
Ruby’s surgeries won’t just save her face, but may save her years of psychological torment. Freeing her from the possibility of teasing and bullying is reason enough to help this brave little girl get the medical attention that she truly needs. If you’re interested in helping Ruby’s family make sure that she is able to have each and every operation necessary, visit the Go Fund Me page for donation information and updates on fundraising efforts.