On Friday, January 12, a surgical team at the University of Miami Health System will remove a basketball-size facial tumor that threatens the life of Emanuel Zayas, a 14-year-old teenager from Cuba.
“This will be a long, complex procedure to restore Emanuel’s ability to breathe through his nose, and eat normally again,” said Dr. Robert Marx, oral & maxillofacial chief surgeon at UHealth, the leader of the surgical team working at Holtz Children’s Hospital at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Health System.
Emanuel’s unusual disorder, called polyostotic fibrous dysplasia, is caused by a rare genetic mutation, this disorder replaces normal bone cells with weaker, fibrous tissue, leading to potential fractures and deformity of the legs, arms, and skull.
In Emanuel’s case, the condition began affecting his left arm and leg when he was 2. But his condition worsened, and when he was 11, he noticed what appeared to be a pimple growing on the left side of his nose. The bump grew excessively and was later identified as an ossifying fibroma – an extremely large benign tumor that now weighs about 10 pounds, and is the size of a basketball. The tumor has taken over Emanuel’s face and has severely affected the bone structure of his upper jaw and nose. He can only breathe through his mouth and is extremely malnourished due to this tumor.
For the past three years, Emanuel’s parents sought medical help for their son. In late 2017, Dr. Marx learned about Emanuel and immediately offered his assistance. Dr. Marx has extensive experience treating similar facial tumors and is one of the few doctors in the country who specializes in operating on extremely large tumors. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Shriners Hospitals for Children – St. Louis who focus on molecular bone science will collaborate with Dr. Marx to study Emanuel’s condition.
International Kids Fund Wonderfund – a Jackson Health Foundation program that helps critically ill children from countries around the world gain immediate access to lifesaving or life-changing medical treatments – took Emanuel’s case.
Following Friday’s procedure, Emanuel will likely undergo a second surgery in several months, in which doctors will use bone from his hip to reconstruct part of his cheekbone, upper jaw, and nose. “It is truly a miracle of God that his pictures ended in the hands of Dr. Marx,” said Emanuel’s mother, Melvis Vizcaino. “I am so grateful he was willing to take the case. He and everyone at Jackson has shown us so much compassion.”
The International Kids Foundation is currently raising funds for his case, and donations can be made online at http://jacksonhealthfoundation.org.