Cuban teen with large facial tumor to undergo surgery in Miami

MIAMI (WSVN) - A South Florida medical team is ready to perform a life-saving tumor removal surgery on a teenage boy who’s traveled from Cuba to undergo the major procedure.

Polyostotic fibrous dysplasia is a condition that Emanuel Zayas has had from birth, but it’s not immediately noticeable when looking at pictures of the 14-year-old as a young boy.

The condition first affected his limbs when he was a toddler. Then it worsened.

“Developmentally, certain bones become soft. They do not develop the hard bone that you and I are aware of,” said Dr. Robert Marx, chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Miami Health System.

7News cameras captured the teen on Friday, his face almost completely covered by a tumor weighing in at nearly 10 pounds.

When he was 11, what looked like a zit appeared on Zayas’ nose, but then it kept growing — until it completely took over his face. The mass makes it hard for him to see, eat, talk and even hold his head up.

“It’s benign, meaning it’s not a cancer. It’s not going to travel to other parts of his body,” said Marx, “but it’s life-threatening by its very weight. If nothing is done, this will cause a fracture of his neck, or it will suffocate him from breathing just by its physical size.”

That possibility, along with the fact that Marx has had experience with this kind of case before, is why the doctor agreed to take on this case with his team and remove this tumor.

“How can you not help this young man?” said Marx.

It’s that attitude that has the teen’s parents emotional and grateful, as they anticipate his surgery. The procedure is expected to take between 10 to 14 hours, in January.

The family came from Cuba on a medical visa back in November.

Speaking through a translator, Zayas’ mother, Melvis Vizaino, said her son has never known a real happy Christmas, but learning he would be getting this surgery has been the best gift the family could ever receive.

Now Zayas, his parents and this experienced medical team are looking ahead to a permanent solution that can dramatically change his life for the better.

“If we get all of it, which, studying the films, we can, it won’t come back,” said Marx.

Zayas’ journey does not end with his first surgery on Jan. 12. Reconstructive surgeries will follow.

This is likely to be an expensive process. A fundraiser has been set up for the family. If you would like to help the teen and his family, click here.

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