Marianna Tamm traveled the world for 11 years, frantically looking for a surgeon to remove a rare and benign vascular tumor on her son’s face. She sought out doctors in her native Estonia, and in Russia, Austria and Finland, all of whom were stumped. It wasn’t until a doctor from the Boston University School of Medicine recommended a team at Roosevelt Hospital that her search ended happily in New York.
“My son is the love of my life,” said an emotional Tamm through an interpreter, as she nervously awaited the start of 12-year-old Georg’s two-day surgery last week. “I am very grateful we found the best hands.” Those hands belong to interventional neuroradiologist Dr. Alejandro Berenstein and pediatric facial surgeon Dr. Milton Waner — who began their unique collaboration in 2004 treating complicated blood vessel problems of the brain, face, neck and spine. Together they have done more than 1,200 procedures on 550 patients from more than 50 countries.
Georg, an adorable blond-haired, green-eyed sixth-grader, was born with a glomovenous malformation, a purple cobblestone-like swelling under the skin that has grown to cover most of his left cheek and eyebrow. The tumor is filled with millions of blood vessels below the skin — compared with just 10 or 20 blood vessels in a normal face. In addition to distorting his left cheek, if he were in a car accident or got hit in the face playing sports, doctors say he could bleed to death.