Getting a new face after rare infection
'Look at me now'
From Elizabeth Cohen
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (CNN) -- When a rare fungal infection called mucormycosis invaded Mark Tatum's sinuses two years ago, doctors had to remove much of his face just to save his life.
If they hadn't taken out his infected eyes, nose, cheekbones, upper jaw and teeth, the fungus could have traveled to his brain and killed him.
"Initially, we didn't think he was going to survive. The prognosis was extremely grim," said Dr. Wayne K. Stadelmann, a plastic surgeon with the University of Louisville Medical Center.
Now, two years and 11 surgeries later, Tatum has a new face.
"Look at me now," the 45-year-old Owensboro, Kentucky, resident said. "I may not be beautiful, but I'm damn near it."
'Testament to the human spirit'
Using skin and tissue from his leg, doctors reconstructed the roof of Tatum's mouth so he could speak and eat.
Then they took a bone from his leg and put it into his face. On top of that bone they built titanium bridgework. Magnets in that bridgework hold in place a new prosthetic "face."
It was created by University of Louisville prosthodontist Zafrulla Khan, who called the prosthesis the most extensive he has ever made or heard about.
Tatum, who wears sunglasses to hide the fact that his fake eyes don't blink, hopes that the prosthetic will get him out more in public.
But he and his family still have a rough road ahead.
Tatum has suffered several strokes, the right side of his body is partially paralyzed and he takes 15 medicines a day.
Medicare and Medicaid only pay for part of the bills, and bill collectors call almost daily looking for tens of thousands of dollars.
Tatum says two things saved him when he was near death: the love of his wife, Nancy, and a dream in which he saw his granddaughter Leah reaching out for his help.
Said Stadelman: "He is a true testament to the human spirit."
University of Louisville Health Care
UofL Health Care Press Release
UofL Health Care Press Kit
University of Louisville
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