Warning: this article contains images some readers may find disturbing.
Tim McGrath is 38 and comes from Michigan state. When he felt a sharp pain in his jaw one day, there was no way he could have known that this marked the last day of his, until now, normal life.
He went to the doctors and they established what was causing the pain. Tim had a synovial sarcoma growing in his face. This is a rare, aggressive form of soft-tissue tumor, that often develops without any particular symptoms, but which can spread very quickly throughout the body.
In the beginning, Tim decided to fight the tumor without surgical intervention, but 18 months later, the growth was already the size of a grapefruit, and because synovial sarcoma are resistant to chemotherapy, that wasn’t an option. The sarcoma had to be cut out of his face — in an operation that lasted roughly 30 hours
Although the doctors did their best to reconstruct the 38-year-old’s face, the attempts were unsuccessful: his body rejected the transplants. Tim told the New York Post, “After the operation to remove the tumor I was heartbroken, I didn’t realize that half of my face would be taken away.”
Not only was his outward appearance now very misshapen, attempts to reconstruct his face also often led to infections. For a time he had a cavity in the side of his face.
On the recommendation of a friend, Tim turned to top plastic surgeon Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyaste who gave him hope again. In further operations, he used skin from Tim’s leg and under his arm to restore part of the left side of his face.
After the surgery, the 38-year-old said, “I currently can’t drink liquid, eat through my mouth, or pronounce certain words, however, my quality of life has improved massively. There are people who stare at me, mostly children who don’t understand, but I would hope that others look past what they can see.”
This time, his body accepted the transplants. The reconstruction is not finished, but his doctor has advised Tim to take a break before further surgery. Tim said, “Dr. Chaiyaste now wants me to have a year off to relax and gain my strength back, let the swelling go down and just have fun in life.” In the next operation, Dr. Chaiyaste will try to give Tim back the ability to eat and drink using his mouth.
Despite this tragic illness and his disfigured face, Tim hasn’t lost his optimism and is an example to us all.
He said, “I have now found the confidence to share my story, and if my journey can lead to a happy life for others around me then I truly understand why I was chosen to walk this path.”