As a young child, Haila Mirto of Denver was always getting sick, which included high fevers. When ill, her tongue would swell and turn a different color. When she was 6 months old, Mirto had a little more than an inch from her lips removed and her tongue cauterized. Even when she wasn’t sick, Mirto’s lips were always larger than normal and had a purple tint. Eventually, she developed cysts in her jaw and the discomfort in her lips, jaw and tongue increased as she aged. The reason for her illness and discomfort was a mystery to Mirto’s doctors – until she met Swedish Medical Center’s Vascular Malformation Center Director and world AVM expert, Wayne F.J. Yakes, M.D. when she was 17 years old.
Dr. Yakes diagnosed Mirto with a facial Vascular Malformation (VM). And while Dr. Yakes informed Mirto that the road to a cure could take an unknown period of time, he assured her that a cure was possible. Dr. Yakes treated Mirto with his unique ethyl alcohol, non-invasive surgery, injecting the alcohol in trouble spots in Mirto’s temple and face. From age 17 to 24, Mirto was confident she was inching closer to a cure, so she took some time away from the injections to marry and establish her teaching career. She also had reconstructive surgery on her tongue when she was 18. And although the treatments have left her with a slight lisp, Mirto says that Dr. Yakes’ approach far outweighed the alternative she was facing as the VM grew worse – a tongue amputation.
"Having my tongue amputated was not an option, as far as I was concerned," Mirto said. "When I started seeing Dr. Yakes, I was old enough to understand that there were some negatives involved in curing my VM, but it was worth it to me."
Today, Mirto receives the ethyl alcohol injections every six to eight weeks under anesthesia in the operating room at Swedish Medical Center. In all but two instances, she returns homes that afternoon. During those two instances, Mirto was required to stay overnight at Swedish to monitor her breathing.
When Mirto has achieved a cure, she plans to get speech therapy, but today relishes in the pain reduction she feels as a result of Dr. Yakes’ pioneering treatment.