Apr 25, 2013 9:51 AM by Marissa Torres
A new pediatric facial procedure can help patients dealing with paralysis. It helped one teen who received a life-changing gift, the ability to smile.
"It's just nice to get my smile back" says 15 year old Natalie Wright.
Smiling didn't seem possible 11 years before, when at age of 4, she was forced into surgery after doctors found a brain tumor had grown to twice its original size. Complications led to paralysis of the left side of Natalie's face and as a result, she lost her vision, hearing, and facial control on that side.
"It was tough, and sometimes a little grim." says Dana Wright, Natalie's mother.
"She lost her smile at that time, so that's been the pursuit is to get her smile back" adds John, her father.
Through it all, Natalie has stayed incredibly positive. But she admits growing up- her confidence sometimes wavered.
"There's been different people that question, you know they have questions."
"People are curious, not mean, but curious, and so people would often stare and my heart would just break."
Thanks to a revolutionary medical procedure- Natalie is feeling more confident these days. It's called Facial Reanimation Surgery.
In a two part procedure- doctors removed a nerve and muscle from her leg; which were then implanted in her face and connected to the side not affected by paralysis.
"Just giving a person a smile back lets them communicate without even having to say something, that they haven't been able to do so for a while," says surgeon Dr. Douglas Henstrom.
It's been a wait-well worth it. Now Natalie and her parents have plenty to smile about.
"I'm just very blessed and excited."
"Now that she can smile and feel confident in who she is, that's just remarkable."