When Joe and Jennifer McGillis welcomed their daughter, Sloan, into the world in 2015, their joy was unrivalled.
When Sloan was born, her parents were astounded to discover a big tumour growing on her face. It hadn’t been detected on any of the ultrasounds, but it had left Sloan in need of immediate medical attention.
Sloan had thirteen procedures to remove the tumour that took almost half of her face.
Thankfully, she survived and is now just like any other happy girl. This is her incredible story, complete with photos of how she looks today.
Few things, if any, are more exciting than becoming a parent. The pure joy of introducing a newborn into the world cannot be articulated to someone who has not experienced it.
Unfortunately, for some, that happiness can quickly turn into unrivalled fear.
Joe and Jennifer McGillis experienced this firsthand. Sloan, the couple’s daughter, was born on February 25, 2015. Nonetheless, the new parents noticed a growth on her face shortly after she was born.
Sloan was admitted to the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on her third day of life. The protrusion turned out to be a tumour. Fortunately, it was not malignant, but doctors were concerned.
Meanwhile, Joe and Jennifer were taken aback.
“They handed her to me,” Jennifer recalled to Inside Edition the first time she saw Sloan with the tumour. “I went into a state of shock at that point.”
“I had about a minute of panic terror,” Joe continued.
Dr. Hardy, the medical professional in charge, was fortunately exceptional. For a long time, he was an important part of Sloan’s life.
“When Sloan was just born, he stepped into her hospital room, looked at her, and stated, “That is a hemangioma, and she will be OK.” Your daughter will be OK.” “And I think I was able to breathe again for the first time in 48 hours,” Jennifer posted on Facebook.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, hemangioma is a form of skin development that appears as red or purple lumps. They are composed of rapidly proliferating blood vessel wall cells. It’s a form of birthmark that can appear in newborns, as in Sloan’s case. While hemangioma is a tumour, it is not cancerous, is not life threatening, and does not spread to other parts of the body.
The growths themselves can be eliminated without the risk of recurrence following surgery. Even so, problems such as sores that cause pain, scarring, or infection might arise.
Jennifer told the Billings Gazette, “When she was born, it was as hard as a rock.” “It was like having a grapefruit underneath your skin.”
A hemangioma may obstruct a child’s eyesight, breathing, or hearing depending on where it is located. It took up most of Sloan McGillis’ left cheek, and one of the concerns was that it would impair the muscles on the left side of her lips.
She couldn’t seal her mouth completely and had to wear a bib all day to capture her drool.
“She just doesn’t seem to know it’s there, she’s grown up with it,” Jennifer explained. “We’ve done nothing to treat it as if it were a visibility.”
Doctors at the hospital advised Sloan’s parents to wait and see if the tumour reduced with time. Joe and Jennifer were concerned about Sloan’s reaction at school if the tumour was not removed.
“The world can be cruel at times,” Joe observed.
“Sometimes adults are worse about it than other children,” Jennifer noted. “Many parents of children with hemangiomas have been accused of child abuse.”
Sloan McGillis’ operation was scheduled for when she was eight months old. Her parents sought advice from specialists around the country and soon began working with Dr. Milton Waner at the Vascular Birthmark Institute in New York. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest authorities on vascular abnormalities.
Sloan was prepared for the operation on January 6, 2016.
Jennifer talked about the emotional day her daughter had surgery on Sloan’s Facebook page.
“They had a plan, but we knew we couldn’t expect the entire tumour to disappear, and you can never mentally prepare yourself to see your baby cut all over their face like with hundreds of sutures and tubes coming out of them.” “When I think back on this first experience, it makes my stomach knot just thinking about the moment I held her in the operating room with the mask over her face and watched her eyes roll back in her head,” Jennifer wrote.
“At that moment, as I’m sure most parents would have felt a wave of fear, I prayed that it wasn’t the last time I held her.” Surgery is frightening enough on its own, but having to decide whether or not to perform it on your child is heartbreaking. Were we on the right track? Was it too much for her petite frame? Will the pain be too much for her, and she won’t be able to tell us?”
To open Sloan’s cheek, incisions were made below her eye and around the sides of her nose and mouth. Doctors were able to remove 90% of the tumour.
Dr. Waner used laser treatment to burn some of the blood vessels beneath her skin during a follow-up appointment one week later, allowing her normal skin colour to return.
Despite the wildly successful procedure, Joe and Jennifer McGillis had one major issue. The hospital, Lenox Hill in New York, refused to take Sloan’s Montana Medicaid insurance, resulting in her daughter’s surgeries costing a lot.
Joe and Jennifer turned to the internet for assistance in raising finances.
A Missoula bank established a medical fund in Sloan’s honour, and an online fundraising campaign raised more than $30,000.
Sloan’s inspirational story went viral, and hundreds of people left encouraging comments on their Facebook page. She also received help from the Jadyn Fred Foundation, which provided her with a pony to bring joy to her life during a difficult period.
Sloan grew up, had a dog, and made many friends throughout the years. The little child is now eight years old and living her best life.
She has nearly 5,000 Facebook followers and is learning to play golf and baseball.
“I had no idea my little girl was half as brave as she has proven to be,” Jennifer, her mother, posted on Facebook in January 2020.
“She’s taken us places we never expected to go.” She is intelligent, witty, and compassionate, yet she is also stubborn and determined. I usually tell people that there was a reason this was given to Sloan, and it’s because she’s the only one who can handle it all.
THANK YOU to everyone who has joined us on this trip! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: your prayers affected us, gave us hope, and helped us get through days like this one four years ago. Sloan, I adore you, Noanie, you’re nothing short of fantastic, and you should never forget it.”
As previously stated, Dr. Hardy was critical to Sloan and her chance at a normal life.