Teen gets new jaw in historic surgery

Texas barbecue is one of Abby Rodgers' favorite foods.

But the 16-year-old Georgetown High School junior has never been able to eat it very easily.

Due to a genetic condition, Rodgers was born with very little bone in her jaw.

"It's pretty hard.  It made chewing hard, it was really hard to eat like chips and meats...which I love to eat meat," Rodgers said.
Surgery after surgery -- and nothing worked.
That is until her family moved from Dallas to Central Texas. 
Dr. Raymond Harshbarger, a pediatric plastic surgeon with Dell Children's says usually they would harvest bone from the lower leg for a procedure like this.  But Abby's unique condition doesn't allow for that.
"Abby, she's missing the lower legs on both sides.  So after we saw her the first time we realized we weren't going to be able to use our standard type of treatment for this problem," Dr. Harshbarger said.
So Dr. Harshbarger and his team had to get creative.  In the 2014 surgery, they used the femur, or thigh bone, instead.  They replaced what they took out with bone graft and transferred it to her jaw.
The surgery is a medical first.
"I'm really happy that we were able to help her out.  I think she came to us, she and her family were pretty frustrated about things.  And I'm glad that we had a solution," Dr. Harshbarger said.
Abby's mom Angie Lester couldn't be happier or more proud of her daughter.
"She's dealt with it all in stride.  She's pretty resilient.  And despite her facial anomalies and the way that she looks, she's always had confidence which I'm thankful for," Lester said.
Now, Abby says everything is a little easier.
"I feel  more confident than I did.  Because I feel like I look more normal.  Talking is still a little bit of a problem though.  There are still certain letters that I can't say very well.  But it's definitely better than it was," Abby said.
And eating her favorite food is a lot more enjoyable.  She's been wanting to try the famous Franklin Barbecue in East Austin.
Franklin made that wish come true with a rare delivery of their coveted cuisine.
Dr. Harshbarger will be traveling to Tokyo next week for the International Craniofacial Surgeon's Conference.
The medical world wants to hear about how he did it.
Up Next:

  • Popular

  • Recent

Stories You May Be Interested In - includes advertiser stories