We can often take our looks for granted. A wrinkle here, a splattering of unwanted freckles there, black circles under the eyes from lack of sleep. All of these concerns are valid, but a little superficial when you read about an incredible mum from South Dakota, Jennifer Hiles.
Jennifer was born with a birth mark on her face but when it continued to grow and expand, she was diagnosed with arterial venous malformation (AVM). The AVM was a mass of abnormal connections between the arteries and veins on Jennifer’s face which gave her a face a lumpy, red appearance.
The condition has seen Jennifer receive bullying and stares from people. She has also nearly lost her life at age 11 when her face nearly bled to death. Jennifer has had a number of life-saving blood transfusions.
The 28 year old mother has had operations in the past to remove the masses from her face, but they have been unsuccessful.
But doctors are chosen to pursue a different procedure in order to remove it forever.
“I just want to be able to spend all of my time with my kids without people looking at me and calling me names,” said Jennifer.
“I just want to not be shy and be who I am without worrying about what people will think.
“AVM is so hard to deal with – it makes my gums bleed and has completely eroded the bone in my teeth, if they fall out I could bleed to death.”
In order to prepare for her upcoming surgery in May, balloons have been placed under her skin to expand her facial tissue. Doctors will use the excess skin to cover the scars left from the removal of the AVM.
Each week, the balloons are filled with saline solution to expand the skin. The process has been happening over the course of 8 weeks in preparation for surgery in May.
When she goes for surgery next month, doctors will use the excess skin to cover up the scars left from the removal of the AVM.
Jennifer explains, “They’re just like breast implants but in my face – like a big balloon with saline inside.
“They don’t feel good – if you can imagine someone taking your skin and stretching it – that’s what this feels like.
“The doctors will effectively remove all of the AVM which is all of the pink on my face and cover it with new skin from the expanders.
“They will remove my nose and make me a new one out of my rib – they’ll have a whole bunch of skin to work with.
“I don’t know if I’m going to look normal, I don’t want to look perfect, just normal.”
Jennifer hopes the bleeding will stop once the procedure is complete. She hopes to live a normal life with her husband and two daughters. She worries about other kids teasing her daughters for the way she looks when she picks her kids up from school.
Jennifer’s husband, Dustin, 27, says he can see past the outside appearance and see the beauty in his wife. The surgery will have no bearing on him – but he does hope Jennifer will be able to experience a normal and healthy life.
“I can see past her outside because she is so beautiful on the inside,” said Dustin.
“It’s kind of scary to think about what she will look like because it’s just a mystery.
“It won’t change the way I feel about her – I’m always going to think she is beautiful no matter what.”
Jennifer adds, “If I don’t ever have to worry about bleeding, hemorrhaging or being called names when I pick up my children that would be a dream come true.
“I would be the happiest woman in the world if I could go for lunch with my family and not be stared at.
“I can’t even imagine it – it will be a dream come true.”
We hope all goes well with the surgery in May.