Shortly after Taylor turned 16, Cheryl brought him to Children’s. They had been coming to the hospital for his oncology checkups twice a year since he was 5, but not this time. Rather, they were meeting with Alex Kane, M.D., division director of Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery, to see if the teen could finally have his nose repaired.
Almost expecting a negative answer, Cheryl could only get the words out for a simple question: “Can you help my son?” Dr. Kane responded with an equally simple answer: “I think he’s ready. Let’s do it.”
Having performed complex plastic and craniofacial repairs on children for more than 20 years, Dr. Kane understood Taylor’s angst about his appearance and was eager to help. “High school is hard enough,” Dr. Kane says. “When you have a facial difference as apparent as Taylor’s, it’s hugely challenging and permeates your whole existence and self-concept.”
Taylor’s nose repair began last December and spanned three surgeries over several months. In the first procedure, Dr. Kane took a sliver of skin from Taylor’s forehead and attached it to where his left nostril used to be. The skin sliver, which remained attached to his forehead, would eventually become the skin for his new nostril.
In the second procedure, in January of this year, Dr.Kane took cartilage from one of Taylor’s ear bowls and inserted it into the new nose skin. In March, he finished Taylor’s surgical process by removing excess skin and sculpting the new skin and cartilage into a nostril.
A significant difference in Taylor, both physically and in his personality, was already apparent one day after the surgery.
“I look handsome now,” the boy who barely spoke prior to the surgery said right before being discharged. “I was blown away by the surprise of seeing myself this morning. I just have a big load off of my shoulders.”
The new confidence and relief that Taylor felt that day only grew as he returned for the last couple of months of the school year. Instead of mocking or avoiding him, his schoolmates complimented him. “One of the teachers told me she couldn’t believe how much he had changed,” Cheryl says. “She said, ‘He actually smiles now.’ ”
This summer, for the first time in his life, Taylor eagerly waited for school to start again, even counting down the days. Now that classes have resumed, Taylor has his mind set on getting a prom date. “I’m excited for my junior year,” he says. “I get to do all the big stuff now.”
A difference is apparent in Cheryl, too, now that she finally gets to see her son happy again. “It has been a long, long wait,” she says. “The work that Dr. Kane and his team did is just outstanding. Now it’s about getting on with life and moving on with a much bigger smile.”