I have been fortunate to work for Celanese for my entire 25-year career. During this time, I have had the opportunity to see hundreds of different applications where our products play a key role in creating a high-performance, lasting solution for our customers. Over the past year, the importance of the role Celanese plays in the world has taken on a much greater personal significance because of my daughter Megan’s health issues.
It started about two years ago in the spring of Megan’s eighth-grade year. She became very ill, and our doctor sent us to Texas Oncology where the oncologist told us to come back in five days prepared for cancer surgery. However, five very long days later, the doctor told us Megan did not have cancer, but most likely a severe staph infection. After several weeks and numerous antibiotics, Megan began to feel better, but my wife Kim and I started to notice physical changes.
Like most teenagers, Megan had worn braces to straighten her teeth, but suddenly her smile, bite and profile began to significantly change. Her orthodontist made the decision to put braces back on Megan, but her teeth seemed to defy every attempt to realign her bite. After months of watching her and measuring her jaw, Megan’s orthodontist concluded she could potentially have a degenerative jaw disease in which the temporomandibular joint begins to degenerate. This rare condition that affects teenage girls is called idiopathic condylar resorption, also known as ICR or Cheerleader’s Syndrome. Although an exact cause of ICR is not known, it is believed that hormones are involved. Left untreated, Megan’s jaw would most likely have lost all functionality over time.
A visit to a maxillofacial surgeon in the fall, just six months after her illness, confirmed this diagnosis. In viewing Megan’s x-rays, CT scans and MRI’s, the surgeon was struck by the speed in which the disease had progressed. Megan’s jaw disease had progressed so rapidly that surgery must occur within the year. The only option would be artificial jaw joints and a surgery similar to a hip or knee replacement in order to stop the disease and return her jaw to full functionality.
Megan’s surgeon showed us the artificial joint device made from titanium and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) that he would implant into her jaw. It immediately struck me that Celanese’s Advanced Engineered Materials Division, the division I now lead, was the supplier of the GUR®, the only UHMWPE approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for medical implants. It was odd but exhilarating to think that after this surgery, my daughter would carry a polymer made by my division in her body for the rest of her life.
When I told Megan about the role that Celanese plays in successfully helping with thousands of knee and hip replacements a year, it brought her some comfort through all of the tears. Kim and I never imagined the important role a Celanese product would play in our teenage daughter’s long-term health.
On June 13, 2012, after months of watching our daughter lose all of her self-confidence and change into a girl we hardly recognized, Megan endured a nine-and-a-half hour surgery to install the artificial jaw joints and realign her new jaw. Following surgery, while standing by her bedside in intensive care, we immediately saw the amazing transformation in Megan’s profile.
Today, ten months after surgery, Megan is healthy, and she has returned to her very active life of cheerleading and tennis. We could not be prouder of the maturity and strength Megan displayed through this horrific ordeal and the inspiration she is to others.
Kim and I continue to be thankful for many things – the orthodontist’s perseverance in diagnosing Megan, the surgeon’s very skilled hands performing a very difficult surgery, and the role that Celanese had in providing a unique medical solution to address my daughter’s degenerative disease.