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Surgery allows 5-year-old to open his mouth for the first time

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Surgery allows 5-year-old to open his mouth for the first time

He spent the first five years of his life without being able to open his mouth. Then a little boy with a rare condition had surgery that changed his life.

Now, Grayson Faircloth is opening wide five times a day. It's a taxing physical therapy that will keep his new jaw joints moving freely after surgery at Sacred Heart Hospital.

Grayson was born with his jaw fused together on both sides.

Using a model, Dr. Aaron Wallender demonstrated how small a range of motion he had, saying, "He only had about 2 or 3 millimeters that he could open, because of that complete fusion on both sides."

Fusion of the jaw joint on both sides is extremely rare. Dr. Wallender said he may not see another case like this in his entire career.

Obviously, speaking and eating were huge challenges for Grayson. For example, he could only get tiny bites of ice cream off the side of a spoon.

Worse was the fear that Grayson's airway would be blocked somehow, with no quick way to clear his throat.

His mother Sharee said, "As a parent, just not...the everyday struggle of being fearful of his life because he was a choking hazard."

Sharee and Nathan Faircloth started looking for a surgeon who could help Grayson three years ago.

Sharee said, "There's a lot of people that were fearful, too...I don't know if it was fearful, but it was a tough case to take on."

Dr. Wallender hadn't done a surgery exactly like this, but he didn't hesitate. He used an innovative technique, putting in silicone implants that allow the jaw to move.

Sharee said, "And to walk into the ICU right after surgery, and he actually put his finger on his chin and pushed his mouth open, that just blows my mind. It was amazing."

When Grayson finishes growing, Dr. Wallender will do reconstructive surgery to lengthen the bottom of his jaw. He knows he's already had a huge, positive impact on a child's life.

He said, "I'd say the moment that it first sunk in is when Mom showed me a video of him eating ice cream with a spoon for the first time. It was very rewarding to see the joy and his excitement at just being able to do that for the first time."