Family thankful for 'miracle' surgery daughter received while visiting Orlando

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It was a trip to Disney World planned in a matter of weeks. 

Erin and Matt Tietjen had found out their 4-year-old daughter, Lena, had a brain tumor.

“When we got her diagnosis, we were told that without treatment, she would have three months to live and with treatment it could be up to a year,” Erin Tietjen said. 

The New Jersey parents say they wanted to take Lena on vacation before she started radiation therapy. 

They got to Orlando in late November and say there were a lot of happy moments, but Lena’s health deteriorated quickly. 

The Tietjens say on their last day in Florida, their daughter got really sick and had to be taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital for emergency surgery. 

That’s where they say the met Dr. Samer Elbabaa, the medical director of pediatric neurosurgery at Arnold Palmer Hospital.  

“He had told us that because of where the tumor had shifted to, that it probably was something where he could get in and operate. His estimate initially was 50 to 70 percent of the total tumor could possibly be removed,” Matt Tietjen said. 

But, the family says the doctor was able to remove more than that – about 90 percent of the tumor. 

They call him a miracle surgeon. 

“What this does buy us is time with her and time to pursue all different courses of treatment, and one of those courses of treatment may be that window of opportunity or ray of light that is going to give her years instead of months,” Erin Tietjen said. 

Lena was also able to spend Christmas at home with her family, after the trip her parents now believe was perfectly timed. 

“When we first got the diagnosis, that very, very first day back in November in the room, the first question I asked, strangely enough, was, ‘When can I take her to Disney World?’ I don’t know why I thought it, it just popped out of my mouth and I look back on that and I think there is a miracle in Florida for us,” Erin Tietjen said. 

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family. 

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