March 2012 -  My name is Debbie and my journey began nine years ago. A cyst in my mouth along the inside of the gum tissue was back for the third time. After a visit to the oral surgeon, it was discovered that there was a tumor that had grown down from the cyst and had taken over part of my jaw. I was numb and terrified. I was told that the tumor and part of the jaw had to come out. Although it was hard for me to wrap my head around I did understand that steps needed to be taken and quite quickly. A few weeks later I had the bottom right teeth removed and a biopsy was taken. That was hard for me to get used to, I had to now eat and chew differentlyand I was certain that everyone looked at me and saw that I was missing teeth and so I covered my mouth with my hand all the time.

The biopsy came back and it was benign, what a relief that was for me!! Three months later I had surgery to remove the tumor and the portion of jaw, replacing it with a titanium bar… and so the long process began. Three weeks later I had an infection in my mouth, so a small surgery was performed to put a tube in the gums to allow for drainage and was followed by a course of IV antibiotics.

Three months later I had the bone graft surgery. Bone was taken from my hip and put into the jaw where the titanium bar was and the hope was that this bone would take and I would start to grow bone… A new jaw, but this would all take time. A few days after leaving the hospital, I developed a very nasty infection and now had lost the bone graft because of that infection. After a series of antibiotics; several weeks of IV therapy and then many weeks of oral antibiotics, only time would tell when we could move ahead… It was a waiting game. The doctors had to make sure that there was not infection anywhere before another step could be taken.

Back and forth I went to the doctors for the next year and a half and then one day on a visit x-rays were taken and it was discovered that pins holding the bar in place were coming loose and although it looked like I was starting to grow bone on my own, it had started to recede.

So back to the hospital for another surgery to take the bar out, clean the site and put another bar in. The prognosis was that if everything looked good, no infections, thin I could have another bone graft 6-9 months down the road. However, another snag hit four months later when the bar cracked. Back to the hospital as an emergency patient and the bar was removed and a thicker one put in. After this surgery I was very ill and it took awhile to recoup. My body was taking longer to bounce back and as with all the surgeries I had to be very careful about what I ate and how I ate, things were starting to take a toll on me and I was beginning to wonder if I would ever have teeth again or if this was the way my life was going to be, running to doctors, having tests and X-rays and having surgeries.

Then I was introduced to Dr. Seikaly, an amazing surgeon, and the wonderful people at iRSM. Many examinations and tests took place, speech and swallow assessments done regularly. One year after my last surgery Dr. Seikaly performed a vascular bone graft surgery. He took a bone from my left leg, the fibula, and made a new jaw. This bone came with a live blood vessels and it was all connected to the vessels in my jaw and neck. Coming out of that very long surgery, with my leg in a cast and wires and tubes coming out of everywhere was rather frightening to say the least. But, I was out of hospital in 10 days, they had told me to expect to be there for 2-3 weeks, so I recovered very quickly. I was very happy!
The next stage, getting implants took a long while, meanwhile doctor visits and tests continued. Two years later the implant surgery took place. What I thought might never happen, was happening!

So today, two years after getting the implants, I have teeth!! It did take time, many things had to be in place and many people were involved in this process. Sometimes the wait seemed impossible to bare but the final outcome is so worth every step!
I’m learning how to eat again and how to adjust, this too will take time but eventually everything will click and I won’t have to think about it again. I look at myself in the mirror and I smile, I feel like my old self but in a new way!

This iRSM facility, Dr. Wolfaardt and this team have been a great blessing. The care, the support, the encouragement and the vast knowledge that they have about this technology is truly magnificent. They are a powerful team dedicated to helping those in need of miracles, and I am here to say I’m living proof that they can and do happen! I have to say also, that the support and love of my family was unfaltering throughout this ordeal, my husband, my two sons and all my extended family, without
them at my side I could not have gone through what I did. My blessings today are many!!

Written by Debbie Davis, a courageous and inspiring patient of the iRSM clinic.