MIAMI – A 14-year-old boy and his family arrived in Miami last month from Cuba on a medical visa after having spent years trying to seek medical attention for their son's disorder.
In just a few weeks, Emanuel Zayas will get the help he needs at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
For the past two years, Zayas watched a benign tumor grow from his jaw, making it difficult for him to breathe and eat.
It was a medical case that doctors in his native Cuba could do nothing about.
"As parents, we've kept fighting every moment," Zayas' mother, Melvin Vizaino, said.
The teen will undergo surgery next month at JMH to remove the 10-pound growth, a procedure that will take eight to 10 hours and requires a team of four surgeons.
"The length of surgery time-wise has little to do with how people recover. It has to do with the blood loss," chief surgeon Dr. Robert Marx said. "We are being very careful to preserve any blood flow (and) tie off blood vessels that will get him to recover sooner."
Zayas has suffered from polyostotic fibrous dysplasia since he was 2 years old.
The disorder has crippled his leg, softened his skull bone and led to a pimple on his nose that has never stopped growing.
Left untreated, the tumor would most certainly fracture his neck and suffocate him, doctors said.
"It's benign, meaning it's not a cancer. It's not going to travel to other parts of his body, but it's life-threatening by its very weight," Marx said. "His lower jaw is normal. He gets food through his mouth the best he can and squashes it down."
After next month's surgery, the teen will need at least two more surgeries to reconstruct his jaw and replace his teeth.
The International Kids Fund program of the Jackson Health Foundation will cover the costs of surgery through donations.
"Now that we're in Christmas and the New Year, please be generous. This requires a lot of time and a lot of fundraising," Mariana Martinez, with IKF Wonderfund, said.
The teen will undergo surgery on Jan. 12, and, depending on his recovery, he'll have reconstruction surgery later in the year.
Click here to make a donation to go toward Zayas' medical expenses.