Oil on canvas 
Painting size: 18×18″ 
Painting by Mark Gilbert

Noora’s story

Noora was the 12-year-old daughter of a fisherman. She came to the UK from Omani for treatment of this benign tumour on the right-side of her face (plexiform neurofibroma), which had destroyed the vision in her right eye and created a massive asymmetry of the right-side of her face. Her right eye was positioned much lower than the left, pendulous lumps of skin containing abnormal proliferations of nerve and fibrous tissue hung down from the right side of her skull and face, and her right upper jaw and lower jaws had grown down much more than the left in response to these abnormal tumours.

When she came to the UK for treatment she used to wear a hood over her face and always wore black clothes. Her father recounts that as a very young girl she had been cheerful and outgoing, but as the tumour had grown she had become increasingly introverted and succeeded less well at school. She also had continuous pain from the tumour and its pressure on her face and brain.

In 1994 she underwent surgery by lain Hutchison and his neurosurgical colleague, Ian Sabin in which the neurofibroma was removed, the eye socket was reconstructed and the right eye lifted to a more correct position. At a second operation with John Hungerford, Professor lain Hutchison’s ophthalmology colleague, her right upper eyelid was reduced.

Following these two operations, her personality changed dramatically. She started to wear earrings and brightly coloured clothes and no longer covered her face. Her father, who had accompanied her to the UK for treatment, also changed in character and wore a permanent smile.