Sarah Stoves is known among her friends for her smile. Anyone who has been to a business event around the city or walked into the main office of the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce in Apponaug has likely seen it, too. A graduate of Rhode Island College, Sarah joined the Chamber in 2012 as an administrative assistant and continues that work today. She enjoys spending time with her young daughter, Jenna.
But as life can throw unexpected, monumental challenges towards the people who seem to least deserve them, Sarah is in the midst of a recovery from an operation that has affected that most central part of herself – her smile – after a walnut-sized tumor was found in her lower jaw during a dental visit in 2016.
The growth, found by Dr. Robert Conte of West Shore Dental Associates, was diagnosed by an oral surgeon as an ossyfing fibroma. Thankfully, the tumor was benign and not cancerous, but it still needed to be removed. Unfortunately, the tumor grew back afterwards and doubled in size, continuing to grow.
Sarah then had to undergo treatment from Dr. Andrew Salama and Steven Caldroney of Boston Medical Center, where she had a 9-hour surgery that involved completely removing more than half of her lower jaw. The surgical team had to then rebuild her face using pieces of her fibula and soft tissue, veins and nerves from her right leg.
Following the surgery was a long period of recovery over the course of multiple months to allow her reconstructed face to heal and swelling to go down. She now has to have delicate, specialty surgery to replace teeth that she lost as part of the surgery, which can only be conducted by an elite team of surgeons familiar with the procedure, so they don’t damage the reconstruction work that has already been done.
Although insurance has covered a portion of the costs associated with her medically necessary surgery, a significant gap of (at least) $20,000 remains – and it could amount to more than that. A group of friends and family have formed a donation effort to raise funds to cover these costs to help Sarah regain the smile she is known for, which has already eclipsed the $11,000 mark.
“She’s a kind, caring, loving woman who puts everyone first, except herself, especially when it comes to her daughter. Even on a bad day she’s always smiling and looking at the positives in life,” wrote friend Rich Collins on a Facebook page supporting her recovery, called Send Sarah Smiles. “Her smile was one of the first things I noticed about her, so I know it bothers her that she can’t fully smile right now. Even through all this she has kept a positive attitude and the best smile she can.”
Donations can be made via checks made payable to CRICC with “Sending Sarah Smiles” in the memo line, mailed to 3288 Post Road, Warwick, RI 02886-7131. You can also donate online by going to checkoutRI.com/events/sending-sarah-smiles-2019/.
“Please help us return that bright beautiful Sarah smile,” the online fundraising page reads. For each $20 gift, donors will receive a #sendingsarahsmiles magnet. Magnets can be picked up at the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce office at 3288 Post Road in Warwick, or can be mailed to your address for a small fee.
“All gifts, minus direct expenses, will be used to help Sarah regain her smile and cover medical costs,” the page reads.