How Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Saved a Young Boy’s Life

At only six weeks old, Matia Simion developed a small blue lesion on his gums, which doctors in his Romanian hometown believed to be a fairly common and benign gingival cyst. The cyst grew so rapidly that at three months old, the baby couldn’t swallow and had to be tube-fed. It was hard for him to breathe. The growth was diagnosed as a rare malignant version of a melanotic neuroectodermal tumor.
Upon further examination, doctors in Bucharest advised that Matia’s family seek a specialist in Western Europe or the United States for the tumor. Without immediate intervention, the baby would die.
Thousands of miles away, a Beaverton, Oregon contractor named Adrian Petrisor caught wind of Matia’s situation by way of a Romanian pastor’s email. Petrisor, whose own family immigrated to the United States from Romania when he was 17, was moved by the email, which contained a heartfelt letter from Matia’s mother explaining his condition and asking for medical advice or money.
Petrisor forwarded it on to his younger brother, Daniel, who, at the time, was in the middle of an oral and maxillofacial fellowship program at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. Daniel appealed to the chairman of the university’s department of oral and maxillofacial surgery, who generously scheduled the surgery at no cost to Matia’s family.
The Petrisor family then arranged for Matia and his mother to fly from Bucharest to Shreveport in 2010 for the surgery. At six months old, Matia underwent surgery at LSU’s hospital, where Daniel and fellow oral and maxillofacial surgeons removed the tumor from Matia’s mouth and installed a titanium plate as a makeshift jaw. They also discovered that some of the boy’s lymph nodes tested positive for melanotic tumor and he would need chemotherapy.
Upon his return to Romania, Matia started chemotherapy, which stopped the growth of his tumor. However, in 2011, the metal plate pushed through his skin and became infected. Matia and his father returned to Shreveport so surgeons could install a smaller titanium plate.
Back in Romania, the metal plate pushed through Matia’s skin again. Surgeons in Hungary removed the plate and sewed up the child’s chin, which at that point was deeply sunken in. Without a lower jaw, Matia had no lower teeth and could only eat soft foods. He also developed a condition similar to sleep apnea, which indicated that clear air couldn’t move freely to and from his lungs as he slept.
Matia’s mother reached out to Daniel Petrisor again at the end of 2011, asking for help. By that time, Dr. Petrisor had joined a private practice in Southwest Portland and was performing oral and maxillofacial surgery at two local hospitals. He made arrangements to perform the surgery at Providence St. Vincent hospital, which provided the operating room, pediatric intensive care unit therapy, medicine and other resources at no cost to Matia’s family.
In August 2013, Matia underwent a complex nine-hour procedure usually reserved for adults. The surgical team built a new jaw for Matia using his own bones and cartilage, transported from other areas of his body and supplied with blood from his arteries and veins. With the help of his colleagues, Dr. Petrisor used computer simulation technology to virtually plan the procedure ahead of time. They went into surgery with custom templates, which helped them cut Matia’s right fibula and rib to create his new jaw. The surgical team also used blood vessels to feed the transplanted bones, and skin and subcutaneous tissue from Matia’s leg to reconstruct his chin. Matia recovered beautifully from surgery. He now has a nearly normal-looking jaw, and can close his lips, move his jaw and eat normally. Oral and maxillofacial surgery saved his life.
If you would like to make an appointment with a leading Orlando oral and maxillofacial surgeon, please contact Dr. Ronald Trevisani today. Read more of Matia’s story at