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Friday
Feb182011

12-Pound Tumor Swallows Man's Face

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHICAGO) -- Jose Mestre's face was consumed by a 12-pound tumor, an explosive growth of blood vessels that blinded him in one eye and invaded his mouth, making it difficult to breathe and nearly impossible to eat.

Doctors in his native Portugal had given up hope that they could operate on the 53-year-old former traffic guard, and Mestre had resigned himself to the fact that he surely would die.

But now Mestre is on the road to recovery.

He was born with a venous malformation, also called a hemangioma, one that had begun growing uncontrollably at the age of 14. These tumors typically increase in size during puberty and his had begun to distort all of his facial features.

Eating was difficult, causing bleeding on his tongue. Mestre's left eye was also completely destroyed as the tumor literally swallowed his face.

His mother was a Jehovah's Witness -- a religious denomination that bans blood transfusions -- and she wanted her son to follow her faith. But three years ago, Mestre's mother died and his younger sister became his guardian and became more proactive in seeking medical care.

The biggest debate was whether Mestre should have facial allotransplantation -- or a human face transplant. Mestre and his sister chose surgery, which was also dangerous.

Mestre's journey took him from Portugal to St. Joseph's Hospital in Chicago, where employees raised money to house him for three months and plastic surgeon Dr. McKay McKinnon performed three risky procedures to save the man's face.

In the first procedure over the course of three months, Mestre underwent a tracheostomy to give him a protected airway. Ninety-eight percent of the tumor was removed. In the second surgery, doctors took out a small residual portion of the tumor and began reconstruction of his mouth and nose. An additional tumor on his tongue was also removed. In a third procedure, doctors fed a nasal gastric tube into Mestre to maintain proper nutrition. They repaired skin tissue that had broken down after the two previous surgeries.

His doctors say the tumor is not likely to grow back and that Mestre's future holds promise. He may need minor surgery to his gums or tongue, but he is not longer in danger of losing his life. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio