A toddler who suffers from a rare condition that left her with giant hands was forced to have liposuction to reduce the build-up of fluid in her fists.
Cora Ruben has lymphedema, which occurs when the lymphatic system does not work properly, leading to abnormal swelling.
The two-year-old, of Minnesota, has an accumulation of fluid in her abdomen, legs, feet and – most obviously – hands.
Cora endured numerous treatments, including massages and compression bandages, however, her fists continued to get bigger.
Desperate, her parents Kasey and Brett Ruben, met with an expert in Germany, who discovered 80 per cent of the youngster’s swelling was down to fat and just 20 per cent lymph fluid.
After having the fat sucked out of her hands, Cora can pick things up and wear normal clothes like any other little girl, with experts being optimistic she will lead a ‘normal life’.
Cora Ruben, two, suffers from lymphedema, which occurs when the lymphatic system does not work properly, leading to abnormal swelling in her hands (pictured)
The youngster tried massage and compression bandages to reduce her abnormally large hands (pictured), however, nothing worked, until an expert suggested liposuction
Speaking of his daughter’s condition, Mr Ruben said: ‘Her hands are obviously the biggest thing people see.
‘But what people don’t know is she’s actually got it in most of her body.
‘It’s through her abdomen, both legs, both feet. Her genitals, through her arms. And as she gets older it’s only going to get worse.’
Mrs Ruben had a normal pregnancy, however, doctors noticed abnormalities in Cora’s hands as soon as she was born, which they put down to swelling from the birth.
‘The first few weeks we thought the swelling would go down,’ Mr Ruben said.
‘That’s what we were told.
‘[But] we saw the paediatrician and that’s when she suggested it may be lymphedema.’
Cora’s hands were so large it made it difficult for her to pick up food and feed herself
Although the swelling was most obvious on her hands, it also affected her abdomen and feet
Despite doctors’ best efforts, nothing helped to reduce Cora’s swelling.
‘In her case it has been growing, and that’s what alarmed doctors and her physical therapist,’ Mrs Ruben said.
‘And it still is worsening and we haven’t been able to control it like you usually can with massages and wrapping and compression.’
Just when her parents thought they had run out of options, a lymphedema expert suggested they meet Professor Etelka Földi, of the Földi Clinic in Hinterzarten, Germany.
‘Lymphedema is in essence a chronic disease caused by the inefficiency of the lymph drainage system,’ Professor Földi said.
‘When the lymph drainage system is inefficient then inflammation develops.’
Lymphedema Professor Etelka Földi (pictured with Cora and her mother) discovered the swelling in the youngster’s hands was made up of 80 per cent fat and 20 per cent lymph fluid, which stopped her responding to treatment like compression bandages
Pictured with her mother after having liposuction, Cora’s hands were then soft enough to be fitted with compression bandages to reduce the rest of the swelling
Despite everything, Cora smiled through the ordeal. Pictured before liposuction, the youngster can now pick up objects easily and wear normal clothes like any other toddler
Professor Földi initially prescribed a lymph-drainage therapist who use specialised massage techniques to prevent the build-up of fluid in Cora’s hands.
However, she then found the swelling in the toddler’s hands was made up of just 20 per cent of lymph fluid, with the rest being overgrowth of fatty tissue.
‘She said it was 80 per cent fat, 20 per cent lymphedema, and the reason why her swelling wasn’t responding was because the fat was basically keeping us from appropriately compressing her hands,’ Mrs Ruben said.
The cause of Cora’s fatty tissue build-up is a mystery and not usually a link to lymphedema.
To remove fat, Professor Földi suggested liposuction, which could then enable massage and compression bandages to reduce the rest of Cora’s swelling.
‘I don’t think anybody likes the thoughts of having their child go through surgery but I think anybody with a child would do this,’ Mrs Ruben said.
‘It’s not her fault she was born with this, so I’ll do anything I can to help her live a quality and happy life.’
Despite some swelling still evident, Cora’s condition has significantly improved.
‘Her ability to pick up things is just tremendously better,’ Mrs Ruben said.
‘Her hands are soft now and they fit in her garments which compress her hands.
‘When those are on, she can fit her hands in regular sleeves and she can do anything else anybody else can do.’
Professor Földi added: ‘I am almost certain Cora can lead a normal life. Someday she will be a happy woman.’
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WHAT IS LYMPHOEDEMA?
Lymphoedema is a long-term condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissues.
Lymphoedema is a long-term condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissues
It usually develops in the arms or legs.
Lymphoedema affects up to 10 million people in the US and more than 200,000 in the UK.
It occurs when the lymphatic system does not work properly.
The lymphatic system is a network of channels and glands that remove excess fluid and help fight infections.
As well as swelling, which is often worse during the day, other symptoms may include:
- An aching, heavy feeling
- Difficulty moving
- Repeated skin infections
- Hard, tight skin
- Wart-like growths
- Fluid leaking from the skin
- Folds developing in the skin
Lymphoedema can be inherited or occur as a result of infections, injuries or cancer treatment.
Around one in five women with breast cancer and half with vulval cancer develop lymphoedema.
There is no cure.
Treatment focuses on minimising fluid build up via compression stockings and a healthy lifestyle.
Source: NHS Choices