By Denise Dick
This holiday season, Austintown resident Ed Port says he has a lot to be thankful for.
Port, 41, underwent a second surgery Oct. 16 to remove tumors that had obscured the left side of his face since childhood.
“Each day is getting better,” Port said.
He’s recuperating at the home of his maternal aunt, Susanne Dietrich, in Ashtabula.
“This is the first time I’ve had Thanksgiving with family in probably four or five years,” Port said of the day that included visiting other family members whom he hasn’t seen recently.
The surgery took more than 11 hours, and Port spent five days in intensive care at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago.
Port suffers from neurofibromatosis Type 2, a genetic disorder that causes tumors. He underwent several surgeries throughout his childhood, but the tumors always returned.
Since adulthood, Port encountered difficulty finding health insurance that would cover the surgeries he needed. Port said most of the insurance companies that he contacted told him they wouldn’t pay because the operations were considered cosmetic even though the size and location of the tumors limited the hearing in his left ear and vision in his left eye.
Last year, he found an insurance company that thus far has agreed to pay a portion of the medical costs.
Port met with a handful of plastic surgeons about the surgery and selected Dr. McKay McKinnon, saying he felt the most comfortable with him.
The first surgery occurred last June, and Port expects to have at least two more.
Port is staying with Dietrich, who dresses a wound left in his cheek in an area that makes it difficult for him to do it himself.
The wound, which resembles a silver-dollar-size hole, has to be cleaned and dried, irrigated with a solution of hydrogen peroxide and saline and bandaged with clean gauze daily.
Dietrich said it’s healing well.
A bit of tissue on Port’s ear died after the surgery, leaving another small hole.
“It looks like I have a pierced ear,” Port said.
He spent a few weeks eating only soft food because of stitches inside his mouth. He has an appointment with Dr. McKinnon on Dec. 2 so the doctor may check how he’s healing.
“I’m feeling pretty well overall,” Port said. “I get tired easily.”
Dietrich has been taking her nephew with her on errands when he feels well enough so that he gets out of the house.
Her three miniature dachshunds have gotten attached to him.
“When he sits in the recliner, they just jump right up into his lap,” she said.