An American surgeon has reconstructed two Polish children’s facial nerves. Ten-year-old Tomasz and eleven-year-old Wiktoria have undergone the first procedure of this kind in Poland. They both had their facial nerves paralised and they are hoping to be able to smile soon.

This surgery gives the children a chance to express their emotions

This surgery gives the children a chance to express their emotions

For me, smiling is an entry to a better life, says Tomasz, who lives in Rumia (near Gdańsk).

He was born with the facial nerve paralysis, which is responsible for showing emotions. He cannot smile, frown or move his eyebrows. His face is completely still.

Thigh muscle fragment

He is the first child in Poland who had their facial nerve reconstructed, using an innovative method.

The pocedure enables people to smile – whether they were born with a paralysis or for some reason the nerve was damaged at some point in their life, explains dr Dariusz Wyrzykowski from Copernicus Hospital in Gdańsk.

The doctors cut out a muscle fragment from the boy’s thigh. They transplanted it into his face and connected it to a different working nerve, which controls chewing.

It is a complicated procedure, lasting from six to eight hours. We are operating using a microscope, says professor Peter Neligan form Reconstructive Surgery Center in Seattle, who was directing the surgery.

Healing and long rehabilitation

Wiktoria’s surgery, who was operated on soon after Tomasz, lasted even longer. Technically it was a success and the girl has already left the hospital. This is a chance for normality for the family.

Not only children, but also adults, were looking at her as if she was mentally diasabled. But she only had a facial nerve paralysis, says Ewa Siekierska, Wiktoria’s mother.

I can open my mouth much wider, I feel something working inside. I can smile a little, it can’t be noticed for now, but I feel it, says Wiktoria.

The doctors are careful, but optimistic. After the surgery – three months of healing. And then, Wiktoria and Tomasz will start an extraordinary rehabilitation – learning how to smile in front of the mirror. If the effect is satisfying, Tomasz will undergo one more surgery – on the other side of his face.

I am waiting for his first smile, says Sylwia Kwiatkowska, the boy’s mother.


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