Teen with jaw fused shut readies for 1st normal Thanksgiving

STATEN ISLAND, New York City -- A 15-year-old boy who has spent half his life with lockjaw and had to be force fed is preparing for his first normal Thanksgiving in nearly a decade thanks to doctors at Staten Island University Hospital.

Nah'zion Priester was 8 years old when his jaw was broken in a car accident and required surgery, and soon after due to a lack of rehabilitation, his jaw fused shut.

He was left unable to open his mouth more than the width of a finger.

"I was only able to eat solid foods by breaking it up into little pieces and forcing it into my mouth," he said. "As a student, this was difficult and embarrassing since others would notice and question. When I told my mom and grandma the situation, they brought me to Dr. (David) Hoffman."

Dr. Hoffman is the director of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery of Dentistry at Staten Island University Hospital and is nationally recognized for performing specialized procedures, and he and his colleagues took on the lengthy task of freeing Priester's jaw.

"You can get in to real trouble really quick with this type of surgery," Dr. Hoffman said. "There are systems of blood vessels in the area we needed to isolate and navigate to even attempt this surgery."

Hoffman's team performed a CT arterial gram to map out the blood vessels in the jaw and put them in to a 3-D printed model of Priester's skull.

The vascular team was able to embolize the blood vessels in the jaw to prevent hemorrhaging and allow Dr. Hoffman and dentist Dr. Lydia Lam to work to free the jaw and install custom made joints.

"To have this type of outcome, you need the technology and the talent," Dr. Hoffman said.

After four surgeries, Priester can now open his mouth to a normal range and is excited to get back to normal.

"I can now eat food with a fork and spoon, brush my teeth in the back, stick out my tongue and feel confident about my smile," he said.

The doctors reinforced the importance of exercising the jaw muscles.

Priester said he is thrilled to once again enjoy a normal life and the first Thanksgiving with his family during which he can eat normally.
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