DALLAS - Taking pictures has never been fun for 15-year-old Yaritza Zayas.
"Looking different sometimes can be like," Zayas said with a long pause after. "I get used to it, so."
Zayas was born with Frontonasal Dysplasia, a condition where the face quits developing in the womb. The condition is so rare that there are no statistics on it. Wikipedia has just one sentence about Frontonasal Dysplasia.
Zayas had the first of many surgeries as a baby. Even now, X-rays show how lopsided her jaw and facial bones are.
She traveled 2,000 miles from Puerto Rico, where craniofacial surgery is less advanced, to the Forest Park Medical Center in Dallas, for what she hopes will be her last major operation.
"We want to make that jawline straight," explained Dr. David Genecov, a Forest Park pediatric craniofacial surgeon. "So, we're going to move the upper jaw down, this direction, move the lower jaw to match it. Once we get that done, we'll straighten out her nose."
Patients travel from all over the world to be treated by Genecov, an internationally recognized craniofacial expert who now heads the International Craniofacial Institute . He has helped transform the lives and faces of thousands of children. His planning and surgery was critical to the success of the 2003 separation of conjoined Egyptian twins Ahmed and Mohamed Ibrahim.
The doctor now uses advanced computer technology to plan the movement of bones designed to make Zayas face more balanced. It should also help Zayas see, eat and breathe better.
Her parents have sold nearly everything and went into debt to give her this surgery and chance.
"As a girl, she wants to wear makeup, look good to boys," said Lesby Bililon, Zayas' mother. "It's something normal for a girl. I just want her to feel comfortable and sure and happy."
"I think this will give her more confidence and also help her socially and from a work perspective," Genecov said. "But, she's a great person, so I think inside she'll still be that great person."
Zayas underwent facial surgery Friday and was released from the hospital the following Tuesday. The operation reportedly went well and Zayas is recovering without complications.