Back in 1993 a lump grew on my left mandible and I went to the Twin Cities and had it removed, it was a cancerous tumor and it destroyed most of my mandible. I had to have a tracheotomy because the surgery took 13 hrs. and my airway was closing. I was in the hospital for 21 days and came back home and had 9 months of chemotherapy and 25 radiation treatments in Grand Forks, ND. The one med. that I alternated monthly made me so week and sick I would just sleep all day. I had a 60 percent chance at surviving this. When I was in the Cities they put a steel plate in my face, but it was infected the whole time I was on chemo. I had it removed after my treatments and I had been having surgery’s ever since to improve my appearance. I had over 25 surgeries in Grand Forks with Dr. Crow, who back in 1995 talked to other doctors and there was not much hope for me to repair my jaw since I had radiation to that area.
I went to Rochester, MN in April 0f 2007 and they took my right fibula out with blood flow and attached to my chin and rebuilt the joint. Surgery went good, I was healing good and made it pass the three day danger period for this type of procedure. But the next day in ICU, I had trouble breathing and was coughing up blood, which was hard not to choke since my mouth was wired shut. They rushed me to the O.R. and found out my left lung collapsed. Then two days after that, which was a Saturday morning, when my wife was going to go back home with my parents, everything went wrong. The doctors came in the morning and found my face all purple, they asked the nurse what happened, but the nurse just started her shift. The doctor called my wife at the motel and told her to come to the hospital right away. They had to tear some of the sutures out to relieve the pressure and had to put leeches on my face to stop the bleeding. Angela and my parents came right away and were just horrified. I could not talk and had to right on a board, I said I thought I was going to die and said tell the kids daddy loves them so much. I had two options, to take my other fibula or remove everything. I chose to remove what they done and go on. The next week I was to go home, when I got a bad staph infection. My Dad and brother came and took Angela home to take care and be with our kids. They had to isolate me in a room and had to figure out what med. would work. They finally found a antibiotic that worked. I had to be tube fed for a week, which was terrible. I also had the wound on my neck open which had to heal from the inside out. They finally sent me home after 18 days. I had to have a wound vacuum pump hooked up to my wound which helped heal 50% faster. The home health nurses from Crookston are great. It took about 2 weeks for it to heal. My leg was another thing. The skin graft took forever to heal and I still have pain in my leg to this day.
I flew to Detroit in April of 2008 to see Dr. Ian Jackson, who is from England and is a pioneer in craniofacial cancer surgery. He and 6 others doctors met with me and they said I had two options. To do another fibula free flap, or to take some of my hip bone to fill out my chin and fill the rest of my face in with tissue. They are wonderful people there. I never flew before so I was kind of nervous, especially going alone, but I enjoyed it. Dr. Jackson told me to go back to Rochester to see another specialist to save me money traveling. So I went there on Tuesday, July 7th, 2008. We came to the conclusion on what caused the fibula free flap to fail in Rochester. It was the night before I got blood clots in my face that the nurse came to wash my back, and not thinking, laid me on the side on which I had surgery, which put pressure on my face and stopped blood flow which caused blood clots. Something so simple, but not thinking I guess.
The fall of 2011, I read the story about the woman whose face was torn apart by her friends chimpanzee, so I looked up Dr. Bohdan Pomahac and his team at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston. I emailed his assistant and a week later to my surprise he called me. We talked for a while, and he told me that they would pay for me to fly out there. I met his wonderful team and did all the x-rays etc. I decided to go for it. So on March 4th we flew out there and I had my first surgery On March 7th of 2012. They took and opened up my left side of my face and cleaned out all the scar tissue, then they opened up my abdomen and removed muscle and placed were my jaw bone is missing to form a base and then removed half of my abdomen fat and skin and placed it over the muscle and sutured it in place. They hooked up blood supply which worked wonderful. Everything worked great on my face, but I got a huge hematoma in my abdomen and a large blood clot near my lung. I needed five units of blood and I was on blood thinner to make sure I don’t get another clot. I was so weak before the blood transfusion. I was setting on the edge of the bed and the nurse was going to get me up to go to the bathroom, I stood up and started bending over infront of Angela, all I remember is my eyes rolling in the back of my head and I passed out, Angela quickly pushed me back on the bed so I did not fall and hurt my face, she thought I was dead. The nurse yelled code blue and three docs and a bunch of nurses rushed in. I woke up with them all around me, look at Angela and she was crying, I told her that I did not want her to see me this way. I spent a month in Boston and returned home April 1st. Everything healed good and I returned for a minor surgery on June 15th. They liposuctioned my face to downsize it and contour it. I went back for surgery on Aug. 24th for surgery to start contouring my face. I went back for another surgery out there on Nov.14th, they finished contouring and made me an earlobe which I have not had since 1993. I went back for a touchup in March of 2013 . I flew back on Jan. 28th, 2014 & had one last touchup. They are so great out there.
I just feel better inside letting you know what all happened, I have tried so hard to look better, not just for myself, but for my wife and kids especially. They miss out on alot of things because I am not comfortable in certain situations.