U.S. army veteran Joe Nunez would go to the ends of the earth to help his children. So, the California father of four, who is stationed in Kuwait, didn’t hesitate to travel more than 6,000 miles for his 12-month-old daughter Noor.
Noor was born with a hemangioma, a benign tumor made up of blood vessels clustered together. Sometimes they are referred to as strawberry marks. Though hemangiomas are the most common vascular anomaly, Noor’s was extreme in size. It completely covered the upper portion of the toddler’s nose and was partially obstructing her vision.
“We went to a supposed expert in Kuwait who said to just use a topical cream and it would go away,” Nunez told TODAY Parents. “I wasn’t satisfied with that answer.”
That’s when Nunez began researching top surgeons in the field. One of the first names that came up was Dr. Gregory Levitin, director of Vascular Birthmarks and Malformations at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York City.
Though Nunez knew it was a long shot, he emailed Levitin asking for help.
If left untreated, Noor’s hemangioma would continue to grow and cause problems with her eyesight and breathing. Nunez was also worried about the psychological impact.
"In Kuwait, people are very blunt. It’s a cultural thing," Nunez revealed. "People would come up to us at the mall and ask, ‘What is that ugly thing on her face?’ The staring was excessive.”
Levitin received Nunez’s desperate plea in the middle of the night.
“It felt like one father reaching out to another father, desperately trying to find someone to help him with his daughter’s condition,” Levitin told TODAY Parents.
Nunez couldn’t believe it when Levitin replied right away with his phone number.
“It was such a huge relief,” Nunez said. “Finally we knew that we were in good hands.”
No one is gawking at Noor anymore.
In July, Levitin removed approximately 80 percent of the little girl’s hemangioma
“With time and some laser therapy, the skin will return to normal color,” Levitin explained. “Within another year or two, I expect her to look completely normal.”
Noor’s mother, Rania Al-Mutairi, burst into tears when she saw the results.
“My wife started crying. She was like, ‘I can see the bridge of Noor’s nose!” You couldn’t see it before,” Nunez said. “It was the best moment.”