NOW I CAN FACE THE WORLD
YOU South Africa|28 October 2021
After living with a benign tumour that made his life hell, Oupa Phetlhu can finally look forward to a pain-free future thanks to a 3D-printed titanium jaw implant
LESEGO MKHIZE

FOR years he locked himself in his room and interacted only with his mother and son.

He was so ashamed of the huge growth on his face he couldn’t bear to look at himself in the mirror. And the discomfort was unbearable – even something as simple as drinking water would cause bleeding and excruciating pain.

Oupa Phetlhu sought medical help at various public hospitals and facilities but was turned away with painkillers, which did little to help.

Finally his mom, Shobo May could stand it no longer – she was determined to get her son’s life back on track.

“She put me on medical aid, we visited a doctor and we were transferred to a specialist,” Oupa (33) says.

He was diagnosed with ameloblastoma, a benign growth that commonly occurs in the lower jaw near the molars. By this time the tumour had started to eat away at his lower jawbone, disfiguring his face and wrecking his life.

“I used to be a security guard but I had to leave my job because I just couldn’t cope anymore,” he tells us.

“People were scared to look at me or be around me. So I stopped going outside and withdrew from the rest of the world.”

But finally Oupa’s life was about to change. Thanks to cutting-edge surgery and technological advances in the medical world, he now has a brand-new jaw – a 3D-printed titanium implant.

He’s without pain or swelling and ready to face the world again.

“Now I want to provide for my son,” Oupa says. “I want to be an exemplary father and use this time to catch up.”

THE trouble started in 2017 when Oupa, who’s from the small town of Edenburg in the Free State, began to suffer toothache on one side of his mouth.

He had his lower molars extracted, thinking that would be the end of his problems. Little did he know it was only the beginning.

“After the extraction my face was slightly swollen and I thought it was normal given the procedure,” he says.

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