A 14-year-old boy died on Friday in Miami after undergoing surgery to extract a 10-pound tumor off his face that had started to suffocate him. As doctors announced, he suffered from a condition that had affected his tissue production since birth, but only affected him when he reached an older age.

Emanuel Zayas was once an ordinary child who used to worry about friendly things. In Cuba, he felt happy playing with his parents and other kids from the neighborhood. One day, in a medical revision, doctors diagnosed him with a rare condition that affected his production of tissue in particular areas. Since that day, he started a hard road that led him to his death.

As the Miami Herald first reported, Emanuel had been operated two weeks ago to remove the basketball-sized tumor that was covering a great part of his frontal face. Doctors confirmed that, although it was benign, it was starting to represent a threat to him and his neck.

14-year-old boy from Cuba with a 10-pound tumor, Basketball-size tumor, Miami
Emanuel’s case of polyostotic fibrous dysplasia never threatened him until adolescence. Image credit: Miami Herald/CM Guerrero

Everything seemed to be just fine after the surgery. Both parents and doctors even thought that the boy only needed time to rest and properly recover. Even the muscles on his face were strengthening. However, a series of complication from the procedure led him to kidney and lung failure, making him die at the Holtz Children’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial. He was just 14 years old.

“After visiting Emanuel last night and observing a glimmer of hope from pupillary reflexes and facial muscle tone, I was informed this morning that he took a serious turn for the worse,” Robert E. Marx, the lead surgeon on the teen’s case, said Friday in announcing Emanuel’s death. “His condition has deteriorated with kidney and lung failure that the best of [the intensive care unit] cannot keep pace.”

A simple pimple

Nothing had happened before his fourth birthday. His parents started seeing something weird in his left arm and leg. When they took Emanuel to the doctors, the said them that he had been born with a disorder called polyostotic fibrous dysplasia.

This rare condition affects the human body by replacing portions of bones with fibrous tissues, as the Mayo Clinic explains. It never put Emanuel in danger until he grew up and turned 11 years old.

Looking at his face in the mirror, the boy noticed on one side of his nose what he thought was a pimple. But unlike a pimple, this mass started quickly growing and kept doing so without any stop for the following three consecutive years. It practically reached the size of his entire head, covering almost all of his face.

14-year-old boy from Cuba with a 10-pound tumor, Basketball-size tumor, Miami
What started as a pimple ended in a 10-pound tumor. Image credit: Miami Herald/CM Guerrero

This simple “pimple” became the 10-pound tumor that led the 14-year-old boy to his death.

The Jackson Health Foundation, a nonprofit group that seeks four funds for cases like Enmanuel’s, said that the tumor had taken over his face, and severely affected the “bone structure of his upper jaw and nose.”

In Cuba, the family presented the boy to several doctors who refused to take the case because they thought it was too complex for them. They feared that they could encounter complications while operating.

This made the parents believe that the only option Emanuel had left was the death.

As it was said before, it didn’t matter that the tumor was benign: it was developing so quickly that the doctor already estimated it could break his neck. Although it didn’t, it crushed Emanuel’s windpipe.

Help from the US

A team of missionaries saw Emanuel in Cuba and how bad his situation was. The group contacted Marx, chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery for the University of Miami Health System, and told his parents he had found a person that could treat their teen.

Marx – as the Washington Post reported – had already heard about Emanuel’s case at a medical conference.

A decade ago, Marx extracted a 16-pound tumor from the face of a Haitian woman, which is why he was one of the few who understood what the speakers were discussing.

14-year-old boy from Cuba with a 10-pound tumor, Basketball-size tumor, Miami
Doctor Marx donated his time and performed the successful surgery. Image credit: Miami Herald/CM Guerrero

Thanks to a series of donations, and a medical team led by Marx, Emanuel could undergo surgery and be separated from the tumor.

Unfortunately, the happiness only lasted for two weeks.

“Dr. Marx won’t start waking him up tomorrow as we’d hoped,” Jaynie Estrada, a missionary who led the fundraising effort, wrote on Jan. 18. “Looks like he needs more days to recover more. … Please continue to pray for him.”

Emanuel didn’t wake up the following morning.

Source: Miami Herald