‘I feel so loved right now’, public raises $250,000 for woman’s reconstructive facial surgery

Tears of gratitude ran high after the public raised the $250,000 needed to launch a woman’s life-changing facial reconstruction.

The outpouring of support means that after 18 years, Brittany Kremers will finally get the surgery she needs to lead a normal life.

Suffering from pancreatitis, the Christchurch woman was completely stunned and devastated to wake up to find the funds had been raised.

“Wow…that’s crazy…I don’t even know what to say!”

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Emotionally, Kremers wanted to thank everyone who made her dream come true, as did mom Dawn.

“I’m in tears,” Dawn admitted.

The good news came at a time when Kremers was feeling depressed and had retired to her home because she believed the operation would never take place. Now she is on top of the world.

“I feel so loved right now.”

Brittany Kremers can't believe the kindness of the Kiwis after $250,000 was raised for a life-changing operation.

CHRIS SKELTON / Stuff

Brittany Kremers can’t believe the kindness of the Kiwis after $250,000 was raised for a life-changing operation.

About to call the Auckland hospital where Kremers will have the surgery to tell them the news, Dawn was confident her daughter would be in for surgery by the end of August/early September.

Dawn hoped the operation could take place shortly after Kremers’ 26th birthday on August 22, as she wanted to make the day even more special.

“This is the best birthday present ever,” her upset mother said as she digested the news.

Kremers, now 25, first told her story in December last year of how a life-threatening tumor ruined her childhood after her jawbone and base of her skull were removed .

She had just suffered another setback after the then Canterbury District Health Board told her there was no funding available for prosthetic facial reconstruction, although she had her fitted with a metal splint on his face for 14 months of preparation.

The decision was devastating for the young woman, who was forced to raise funds for private surgery.

The Kremers weren’t sure how much the operation would cost, but after meeting with the surgeon, they discovered it was much more than they had estimated.

Nearly $170,000 was raised on a Givealittle page late last year, but it was ultimately determined the amount needed would be around $250,000, leaving Brittany worried the surgery would never happen.

Brittany in 2008, the day she was told her rare cancer had returned.

CHRIS SKELTON / Stuff

Brittany in 2008, the day she was told her rare cancer had returned.

However, in just six hours, the generous Kiwis raised the extra $80,000 the family needed.

Approximately $12,500 or 5% of the total raised will go to Givealittle in fees.

Auckland head and neck surgeon Muammar Abu-Serriah gave Kremers hope the operation could help her drink and eat again, and ditch the syringe she used to ingest liquids.

He plans to straighten the left side of his jaw to align with the center, take a bone from his lower leg to make a jawbone, and fix it with a titanium joint at the base of his skull.

The surgeon then intends to place a free flap to fill the area, but does not yet know which part of the body it will be taken from.

As with any surgery, there would be risks, which Kremers tried not to focus on. A veteran of more than 100 hospital admissions and numerous painful surgeries, she refused to let herself think about what life might be like if the surgery was successful.

She learned a long time ago to manage expectations, but admitted that she had thought of some things she wanted to do: the first kiss with her boyfriend, leaving the house without feeling embarrassed and drinking in a cup of coffee without dripping down his chin.

From now on, all possibilities are on the table for the young woman who just wants a chance to be like everyone else. And it’s something she still finds hard to believe.

“I don’t know if I want to dance in my pajamas or just cry because it’s finally doable.”

The 25-year-old can't wait to kiss her boyfriend for the first time and eat and drink without having to use a syringe.

CHRIS SKELTON / Stuff

The 25-year-old can’t wait to kiss her boyfriend for the first time and eat and drink without having to use a syringe.

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