5-year-old boy with rare disorder gets life-changing surgery on Long Island

NEW HYDE PARK, Long Island (WABC) -- Rokas Zalage was born with facial deformities that made some of the simplest functions -- like breathing, eating and talking -- difficult. But the young boy from Lithuania is doing all those things much easier now, thanks to a life-changing surgery in New York.

"This surgery helped him breathe, to help him get a good nights sleep, which was impossible before," mom Ruta Zalage said.

Rokas suffers from Goldenhar syndrome, born missing most of the right side of his face. It is very similar to the condition depicted in the recent film "Wonder."

"He had a tracheostomy placed after birth and had it most of his life until recently," Ruta Zalange said.

The family of four came to to the US for facial reconstruction surgery at Cohen's Children's Medical Center Northwell Health in New Hyde Park. In March, doctors used a graft of rib to build a jaw bone on the right side of his face.

"I spoke with a lot staff here at Cohen's Children's, and they all remarked how Rokas never complained," pediatric plastic surgeon Dr. James Bradley said. "Through it all, he was extremely brave."

The family is now headed home to Lithuania.

"We are feeling really happy, because the surgery was a successful," Ruta Zalange said. "Rokas is feeling great. He's sleeping good at night. And he's happy."

He must return to the U.S. in six months for a second reconstructive surgery.

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