14-year-old Emanuel Zayas died of complications following surgery to remove a 10-pound tumour from his face. Emanuel and his parents, Noel Zayas and Melvis Vizcaino, travelled from Cuba to Florida so that doctors could attempt to remove the tumour, which was pressing on his trachea, causing breathing difficulties.
The 10-pound tumour developed on Emanuel’s face about three years ago due to a rare condition known as polyostotic fibrous dysplasia. This condition caused Emanuel’s bones to become soft. When the tumour began growing on Emanuel’s face, his parents thought it might have just been a pimple. However, the tumour eventually grew to be larger than a basketball.
Noel Zayas and Melvis Vizcaino’s attempted to find specialists in Cuba who could remove the 10-pound tumour, but unfortunately, nobody was capable of performing the extremely difficult surgery. The family travelled to Florida with a temporary humanitarian visa so that a team of facial surgeons could attempt to remove the tumour.
Dr. Robert Marx, the chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Miami Health System was the doctor assigned to Emanuel’s case. Marx was confident that the surgery to remove the tumour would improve Emanuel’s vision, airways, and ability to eat. Despite the surgery’s success, Emanuel soon took a turn for the worse.
Dr. Robert Marx told the Miami Herald he saw “a ray of hope from [Emanuel’s] pupillary reflexes and the muscle tone of his face.” Unfortunately, Emanuel took a turn for the worse when unexpected complications arose. Although the greatest risks from surgery were bleeding and compromised airways, Emanuel experienced lung and kidney failure post-surgery. He passed away shortly after.
“Apparently, the physiologic stress of the surgery was too much for his compromised anatomy to overcome,” Dr. Marx told NBC Miami, “Our hopes of saving his life, and with that allowing him a better quality of life, were not realized.” Dr. Marx and his team had planned to perform facial reconstruction surgery on Emanuel after he recovered from the removal of the 10-pound tumour.
Emanuel’s family has donated Emanuel’s body to science in the hopes that doctors can study his case and use it to save the lives of others with the same condition. His parents wrote in a Facebook post, “We truly believe and know without a doubt that Emanuel did indeed receive complete healing and that now he has a perfect, sweet face and two legs that work, and that he is running and jumping and having a great time in heaven right now.”
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