14-year-old Emanuel Zayas died of complications following surgery to remove a 10-pound tumor from his face. Emanuel and his parents, Noel Zayas and Melvis Vizcaino, traveled from Cuba to Florida so that doctors could attempt to remove the tumor, which was pressing on his trachea, causing breathing difficulties.

C.M. Guerrero/Miami Herald via AP
The 10-pound tumor 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 tumor began growing on Emanuel’s face, his parents thought it might have just been a pimple. However, the tumor eventually grew to be larger than a basketball.
Noel Zayas and Melvis Vizcainos attempted to find specialists in Cuba who could remove the 10-pound tumor, but unfortunately, nobody was capable of performing the extremely difficult surgery. The family traveled to Florida with a temporary humanitarian visa so that a team of facial surgeons could attempt to remove the tumor.
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 tumor would improve Emanuel’s vision, airways, and ability to eat. Despite the surgery’s success, Emanuel soon took a turn for the worse.
C.M. Guerrero/Miami Herald via AP
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.
University of Miami Health
“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 tumor.
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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