One surgery after another has marked the young life of 4-year-old Nora Root since the day she came into the world on Oct. 1, 2003.

One surgery after another has marked the young life of 4-year-old Nora Root since the day she came into the world on Oct. 1, 2003.

The most recent was in June.

Although she sometimes has to have a procedure in September, her mother, Terri Root who is a music teacher at Alton Darby Elementary School, said she is not scheduled for one this fall.

"We are hoping for four calm years," said Terri.

Terri and father Tom, who is a music teacher at Hoffman Trails Elementary School, said their daughter handles the surgeries better than they do.

Nora was born with an asymmetrical nevus, or giant mole, covering the entire left side of her face.

Initially the Roots thought it was a birthmark, but soon learned that it was a congenital, hairy nevus.

"Nora had her first appointment with a plastic surgeon, dermatologist and pediatrician before she was a week old," the Roots said in e- to family and friends.

A mole that is not symmetrical, according to Terri, is often thought to be precancerous.

"We knew if we did not remove the nevus on her face we ran a risk of Nora developing skin cancer and that was a nightmare that we were not ready for," Terri said, "but we weren't feeling great about the treatment options either."

Doctors told the Roots that their daughter would have numerous surgeries, possibly extending into her high school and college years.

For Halloween that first year Tom, Terri and Nora dressed up as a family of Dalmatian dogs and Terri put her daughter's birthmark on her own face.

A woman approached the Roots and said, "Look at the awful birthmark your baby has!"

Terri explained to the woman that it really was a birthmark and her child would be fine.

Rather than being angry at the woman, Terri said, she felt sorry for the woman, because the more she talked the worse it got.

At times Terri said she does become angry with the insensitivity of others, but as teachers she and Tom are more interested in educating people about the nevus. Terri even did a video to share with her students in the classroom, so they would not be frightened.

One of the students in Terri's class told his mother about Nora's condition and they put the Roots in touch with a family in Upper Arlington who has a daughter with the same condition.

The same day, Terri said, Nora's pediatrician called with the number for the same family.

Through their contact with the Upper Arlington family, the Roots learned about Dr. Bruce Bauer, with Children's Memorial Hospital, in Chicago.

In February of 2004, the Roots met with Bauer and scheduled Nora's first surgery for the following July.

"We struggled with the physical issues of Nora's nevus," said Terri. "We felt strongly that she was beautiful with her face unchanged and we did not want her to feel as if our reasons for opting for surgery were because we were unhappy with her appearance."

The Roots went as far as to hire a professional photographer, Jennifer Esperanza, who has provided covers for Mothering Magazine and lived in New Mexico., to take pictures of Nora before the first surgery.

"That was the first time we were not gawked at," said Terri. "When you have a new baby you want people to coo over your kid. I think people around here wanted to, but they couldn't."

In New Mexico, she said, they experienced that for the first time.

"That trip was a blessing in so many ways," Terri said. "It was the best trip ever."

Two expanders were placed under the skin in Nora's face, one on the left side of the forehead above the nevus and the second under the left jaw below the nevus.

The Roots were taught how to fill the expanders with saline solution in order to stretch the healthy skin around the nevus.

"The expanders hold 250 cc of liquid," Terri said, explaining that there are 350 cc of liquid in a can of soda pop.

Bauer removed portions of the nevus on Nora's cheek, nose and above her eye.

Initially Nora wore a surgical dressing around her head to keep the skin and sutures moist and a gauze mesh where two drainage vials were tucked away.

Terri and Tom were quick to explain to family and friends that Nora was at high risk of infection, she could be exposed to the sun but not for long, cuts were a bad thing, and the expanders could pull the skin so thin that a hole would occur resulting in immediate reconstructive surgery.

"Let's hope she has thick skin, in more ways than one," Terri said during in one of their e-mails to families and friends during that first year.

In 2005, one of the dreaded fears of the Roots came to pass when Nora developed some holes in the expanded skin as medical experts tried to use skin from the shoulder for eye reconstruction.

"It was scary," Terri recalled. "Tom was at a retreat for school and they were on a scavenger hunt."

When someone who knows Tom came to their door, Terri said to tell him they had to leave for Chicago immediately.

"It wasn't the worst thing ever," Terri said as she looks back on the experience. "What was hard was the questions that came after, surgery didn't go the way we hoped."

Terri, who was then pregnant for their daughter Katie, had a tough time, but so did Nora through the whole process.

"Nora greatly objected to not moving and exploring and as a result, she broke through the stitches that kept her eye closed during the recovery," Terri said in one of her e-mails to family. "The doctor told us that he had never seen anyone break through the stitches."

The following November, Bauer confirmed that the skin around Nora's eye was pulling too tight and preventing her left eye from closing. So he took a graft of skin from behind her ear to put under the lower eye lid to loosen the tension and allow the eye to close.

Throughout the surgeries, the Roots periodically had to quarantine themselves and learn how to fill expanders and massage their daughter's face so her scars would diminish.

Terri's mother is a nurse and stepped in and helped at times.

In 2006 Terri wrote family and friends excited by the prospect of having an entire summer without any scheduled surgeries.

A reconstruction surgery that December helped make Nora's forehead more symmetrical and removed parts of the nevus from her eyebrow and cheek and set the stage for the surgery involving her nose.

The most recent surgery involved small adjustments to Nora's face.

"All of the biopsies have been negative," said Terri

Even though she and Tom are thankful that the biopsies have been negative in the back of their minds is the nagging fear that one day they will be told differently.

Nora will turn five in October, and since her birth she has endured nine or 10 surgeries.

"She is a trooper every single time," Terri said.