Edith is beautiful
Dignity restored to a West African teenager
„Am I beautiful?“ 13-year-old Edith wondered, as she slowly lifted a hand-held mirror to eye level.
The bulky tumor which had overtaken her face was gone - removed by a doctor at a local hospital. For days, her face remained hidden under a covering of gauze and tape. The hospital staff reassured her she would be beautiful. Now the time had come to remove the bandages.
Excitement mixed with trepidation as Edith finally lifted the mirror high enough to see her face. Tears began to flow. Distorted skin glued shut her right eye and nostril. Scars angled her face. „No,“ she thought sadly. „I am not beautiful.“
Edith’s facial tumor began growing during her pre-adolescent years. By the time she reached 13, it bulged to the size of a fist. It began to shift her eyes, nose, and mouth across her face, making it increasingly difficult to eat and breathe and endangering her life.
A missionary couple, Tony and Erica Omoijuanfo, met Edith while passing through her village in Benin. Realizing her life was in danger, they took her to a local hospital. A surgeon, with neither plastic nor maxillofacial experience, agreed to take her case. Although not ideal, it gave Edith hope. If she did not have the tumor removed, she would die.
The surgeon successfully removed the tumor, saving Edith’s life. But back in her village, people could only see Edith’s mangled face. They thought she didn’t even look human.
„No one would come near me,“ said Edith. „Everybody used to run away from me. If I drank in a cup, no one would drink from that cup. If I touched something, no one would touch it. I did not have any friends.“
For months, Edith spent her days alone, shut in her room. Her father, Daniel Tahou, was the only person who would sit with her. „She couldn’t play with friends; they used to run away from her because of her face,“ said Daniel. He hated watching his daughter suffer.