Innovative surgery removes large portion of tumor in 4-year-old girl

ORLANDO, Fla. — An amazing breakthrough in pediatric cancer treatment unfolded at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children this month when the life of a 4-year-old girl who was dying from a malignant brain tumor was extended by the work of an innovative surgeon.

In the fall, Lena Tietjen was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer and given just weeks to live, her parents said.

Lena and her family are from New Jersey and visited Disney World. As they prepared to leave Central Florida, her health plummeted. She was taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital, where her family learned her tumor had doubled in size and ruptured.

Director of pediatric neurosurgery Dr. Samer Elbabaa told Eyewitness News he saw a window of opportunity in the tumor's changes that would allow him to perform surgery to remove part of the tumor. It was a procedure that was previously impossible.

"When the parents were dedicated to offer a treatment outside the box, I never second-guessed my surgical offer to them," Elbabaa told Channel 9's Angela Jacobs.

The surgeon removed more than 90 percent of the mass in Lena’s brain.

“She can talk to us and she's smiling. She's happy. She's laughing,” Lena’s father, Matt Tietjen said. “He's given us our daughter. We can't thank him enough.”

Lena will begin radiation therapy Jan. 2.

Elbabaa said the future is still unknown because there isn’t a cure for the type of cancer Lena has, but there are now treatment options that didn't exist before.

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