Courtesy of WRIC Newsroom
Wearing a pair of sunglasses or listening to music with headphones are part of daily routines that most of us take for granted. For two teens who now call Richmond home, it will soon be a whole new world for them.
“Bless my hands. Let them be the instrument of your healing touch,” Dr. Michael Armstrong says a simple prayer for a teenage girl before her surgical procedure.
She wished for so long that this day would come.
“I’m very thankful to God and thankful to Dr. Armstrong as well as thankful to Access Now in order to have this procedure,” Rosa Guevara Diaz says through an interpretor.
The 18-year-old is back at Dr. Armstrong’s office at Richmond ENT for another touch up. Her brother Antonio is too. They moved to Richmond from El Salvador more than a year ago to be with their grandmother. During a school physical, doctors noticed an an issue that Rosa says caused them a lot of pain.
“Yes, at first people would discriminate against me because I only had one ear,” says Rosa.
She was born without a left ear. Thirteen-year-old Antonio was born without a right due to a birth defect that affects an estimated one in every 5,000 to 7,000 people. The siblings can hear. A specialized CT scan found everything is in working order on the inside. What they didn’t have on the outside, however, made them targets of hurtful words.
“That it was ugly,” Antonio remembers how people described his condition in the past.
The group Access Now connected the siblings with Dr. Michael Armstrong. He made each of them an ear using skin for their thighs and cartilage from their ribs.
“Those ribs were removed, carved into the shape of an ear and then implanted under the skin of the scalp where the ear should be,” Dr. Armstrong explains the procedure.
It is already making a world of difference. Rosa, like any teenage girl, got her new ear pierced. She is also more confident about her future.
“Continue with my studies, and I can cut my hair,” she says about her immediate plans.
Antonio says he can’t wait to get back on the soccer field with friends.
Dr. Armstrong chimes in:
“Certainly going through the middle school and teen years is a really challenging time for any child that has a visible birth defect and being able to make a difference in these children is very rewarding.”
He will watch over Rosa and Antonio and still has a few tweaks to make, but their happy endings are within reach.
“It makes me happy,” says Leslie Gibson of Access Now. “It’s very nice to see what we do daily does make a difference in people’s lives.”
These teenagers who came to this country for a better opportunity are now off to a strong start.
“I never thought I would have this type of procedure,” Rosa says simply. “I’m going to have two ears, and I’m not going to be discriminated against in the future.”
Microtia and aural atresia is a rare congenital deformity in which a child is born without normal ear cartilage and without an ear canal. Reconstruction usually is deferred until about 8 years old, when the rib cartilage is well developed and the head is approaching adult size. The cosmetic reconstruction must be performed before the restoration of the ear canal. Many of these patients have serviceable hearing after repair.