A baby girl born with a ‘Batman mask’ birthmark on her face has undergone her first ‘successful’ surgery in Russia.
Luna Fenner, of Florida, flew across the world for the pioneering treatment that isn’t available in the US yet.
The seven-month-old was born with congenital melanocytic naevus, a skin condition which produces abnormally dark blemishes, usually across the face.
Luna’s mother, Carol, 35, began searching for a doctor who could help after being warned the condition raises Luna’s risk of melanoma skin cancer.
She almost lost hope when doctors in the US said Luna would need to endure up to 100 operations using laser surgery over five years.
Dr Pavel Popov then stepped forward to offer Luna up to eight surgeries in 18 months in Krasnodar, after reading about her in a local newspaper.
Luna Fenner, of Florida, was born with a ‘Batman mask’ birthmark on her face
A doctor in Russia, Dr Pavel Popov, read about Luna in a local newspaper. He stepped forward to offer Luna surgery not available in the US. Pictured with Carol Fenner, 35, Luna’s mother
Mrs Fenner said Luna, pictured with a bandage on her forehead where the operation was performed, was ‘super fine’ and there is ‘no need for pain medicine’
‘The first operation was successful,’ said Andrei Aleksutkin, executive director of the laser and photodynamic clinic in Krasnodar.
‘We treated part of the naevus located on the child’s forehead.’ It is unclear when Luna’s next operation is scheduled for.
Mrs Fenner wrote to her 127,000 followers on Instagram: ‘I didn’t warn you of the first surgery here before, because I knew my phone wouldn’t stop and I couldn’t risk her recovery.
‘She’s super fine, thank God. No need for pain medicine.’
The treatment involves injecting an unnamed drug into the face which accumulates in the birthmark, causing the tissue to die.
A crust forms over the skin but beneath this healthy skin grows. Laser treatment is also used to reduce pigmentation and tidy the edges of the birthmark.
Each surgery costs $25,000 (£19,977) each, which the family are raising funds for on the internet.
In September, Luna hit headlines when surgeons and oncologist Dr Popov offered treatment that was less intrusive and cheaper than in the US.
Dr Popov, chief director of the hospital, said: ‘Luna’s parents were offered… 80 surgeries in five years.
‘They were supposed to start when the girl grows up, plus it was planned to carry them out in different medical institutions in America.
‘And for all this you had to pay a crazy amount of money.’
Each surgery costs $25,000 (£19,977) each. Luna had the first one on her forehead
Doctors in US said Luna would need to endure up to 100 operations using laser surgery over five years, which left Mrs Fenner ‘lost’.
Dr Popov bonded with Luna straight away, and said the two found a ‘common language’
He added: ‘The doctors deliberately proposed a treatment regime that does not fit into any framework of American insurance medicine.
‘They were uncomfortable just saying: “We can’t operate on your girl, we can’t do everything the way you want”.’
Mrs Fenner said when Luna was born, no one in the room had any idea what was wrong with her.
She was diagnosed with the skin condition congenital melanocytic naevus six days after she was born.
Mrs Fenner said: ‘The doctors in the US kept giving me different advice, I felt so lost and didn’t know what to do.
‘A surgeon in Boston all told me Luna must be subjected to over 100 sessions of laser treatments.
‘I didn’t feel comfortable with that, I wanted her to start school at the right time and feel like she could fit in with the other kids.
Mrs Fenner said she or anyone else in the room did not know what the blemish on Luna’s face was when she was born on March 7 this year
Doctors in US said Luna would need to endure up to 100 operations using laser surgery over five years, which left Mrs Fenner ‘lost’
Mrs Fenner said everyone thinks she is ‘crazy’ going to Russia to treat Luna, but that she thinks it is the best option for her. The family are raising funds on the internet
‘Other surgeons in New York, Chicago and Florida told me laser would be the worst thing for Luna. They all had very different opinions about what to do and when.
‘Everybody thinks I’m crazy to go to Russia but I have done a lot of research and gained advice from several doctors, and I really think this is the best option for Luna right now.’
Dr Popov’s therapy method doesn’t involve ‘a large-scale bloody surgery’ or the ‘excision of a large amount of tissue’.
He said: ‘We can do such operations on an outpatient basis, under local anaesthesic and without a drop of blood.
‘A careful examination of Luna made me happy. It showed that now there is no danger, and we have at least a year-and-a-half in order to complete the treatment.
‘Photos on the Internet and those that the girl’s mother sent me looked much more alarming.’
Dr Popov bonded with Luna straight away, and said the two found a ‘common language’.
He said: ‘As soon as her mother brought her into my consulting room, the girl extended both hands to me, grabbed my thumbs and never let go.
‘I had to pick her up and even feed her from a bottle, because then it was time to eat.’
The medic also showed journalists a small Russian girl whose birthmark he has removed, which relieved full-time mother Mrs Fenner.
Dr Popov showed journalists a small Russian girl whose birthmark he has removed
Dr Popov, pictured with colleagues and Luna, said: claimed: ‘The doctors [in the US] deliberately proposed a treatment regime that does not fit into any framework of American insurance medicine’
Mrs Fenner, who is married to Thiago Tavares, 32, said she was worried about Luna’s future because she has dealt with cruel trolls on Instagram
WHAT IS A CONGENITAL MELANOCYTIC NAEVUS?
Around one per cent of babies are born with a CMN. However, they are often much smaller. In some cases, they can be hairy.
CMNs are sometimes called ‘brown birthmarks’ by medics. They get bigger as children age.
They don’t usually cause any complications but they can be itchy. There is a slight risk of melanoma, thought people with bigger CMNs face the highest risk – but it is still low.
Dr Adil Sheraz, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, told MailOnline: ‘The word melanocytic refers to being composed of melanocytes – these are cells that produce pigment or colour.
‘A naevus is another word for a mole. A mole that is present form birth is known as a congenital melanocytic naevus (or birthmark).’
Treatment is usually surgery to remove the blemish.
Full-thickness grafts may be required for large growths.
If surgery is not possible due to the size, location or thickness of the blemish, laser therapy may help to reduce pigmentation and make it less hairy.
Dermabrasion may also be used. This involves resurfacing the skin so it grows back smoother.
Mrs Fenner, who is married to Thiago Tavares, 32, was extremely worried about the operations on her baby, who was born on March 7.
She said before flying to Russia: ‘I haven’t stopped to think about it yet. I think I am probably going to freak out when we get to the airplane.
‘Dr Popov agreed for me to meet some parents of patients who have done it before. My husband will stay here to pay for bills and everything.
‘It’s been very difficult for us to raise the money. We still have a long way to go.’
Mrs Fenner, who is originally from Brazil, shares Luna’s journey on an Instagram page, but has been taunted by cruel trolls who call Luna a ‘monster’ who ‘should be killed’.
It made Mrs Fenner consider how Luna may struggle with bullies in the future, which also drove her to find a surgeon.
‘The worst we had was a man who said, “Wouldn’t it be better if we killed her than lived so close to a monster like Luna?”,’ she said.
‘At the beginning, I wanted to kill everybody. Now, I answer with the education I have regarding the condition. But sometimes I still get mad.
‘I also receive a lot of encouragement and people who tell me Luna is beautiful. When people say she looks like the Batman superhero or a butterfly that makes me happy.’
For now, Luna is recovering with a bandage on her forehead. After the operation, she quickly returned to her normal self.
Mrs Fenner said: ‘The doctor said that if she is eating normally, laughing and not trying to touch the bandage, is a sign that she is not feeling pain.
‘We went to the doctor every day to change the bandage and today she took her first full bath with the nurses because I was afraid to wet her little head at home.
‘Now keep praying that her healing is wonderful.’
Donate towards Luna’s surgery and expenses here.
Mrs Fenner, pictured with Luna after her surgery, said: ‘It’s been very difficult for us to raise the money. We still have a long way to go’
Luna’s parents are keen for her to have treatment soon to avoid being bullied at school