Category: Society / January 16, 2013 4:41 PM EST
A woman born without a tongue is receiving groundbreaking treatment in Brazil.
Twenty-three-year-old Auristela Viana da Silva spent years having difficulties eating, speaking, and breathing.
Her mother, Adriana Viana, said that for a while she thought her baby wouldn't make it.
"She has been living on the edge from the time she was born; she could have died after three days," she said.
Frederico Salles, one of Silva's first doctors, was surprised when he saw the young child, and was amazed at the fact she was still alive.
"I was very surprised [when I saw her]. At the time, with 30 years of experience, I had never seen anything like it. When she opened her mouth and we saw no tongue, I thought how could she still be alive," he said.
After a decade of seemingly ineffective treatments, a team of doctors finally decided to go for a more extraordinary option.
In a process which required two surgeries, doctors expanded Silva's chin and jaw to create more space in the interior of her mouth. Silva also had to use braces for her teeth.
Orthodontist Jorge Faber who was involved in Silva's complex treatment, said it is situations like these which enable progress in medicine.
"Those special cases present challenges which a lot of times require atypical solutions, and that's what generates expertise and progress," he said.
The Brazilian doctors' work was published in a U.S. science magazine.
Silva said she couldn't be happier with the results and that her quality of life has dramatically improved.
"I am able to speak better, to chew better, and also to communicate better. Today I'm studying, I lead a normal life, and ready to face the challenges, I like challenges," Silva added.
An American woman who only provided her first name, Kelly, is one of the three known cases in the world of people who were born without a tongue.
After learning about the treatment, she travelled to Brazil to be treated by the same team of doctors who treated Silva.