The Wittgenstein Forum blog reports on a Nevada Appeal article highlighting the benfits of using cranial re-animation surgery to treat Mobius Syndrome, a rare birth defect caused by the absence or underdevelopment of cranial nerves that control eye movement and facial expression. The surgery is performed at UCSF by Dr. William Hoffman.
Miracles happen every day. So they say. But what if you’re a family in need of multiple miracles? Such is the case with the Harris clan in Carson City. Their problem was simple – and yet seemingly unsolvable. Their daughter Ashlee, 7, a first-grader at Mark Twain Elementary, was born without a smile. That’s right. She couldn’t smile.You see, Ashlee came into this world without the nerves and muscles in her face to crack a smile. It’s called Mobius Syndrome, a rare birth defect caused by the absence or underdevelopment of cranial nerves that control eye movement and facial expression. No matter how much mother Amy tickled and cooed and cajoled; no matter what little multi-colored sprites danced on the mobile that hung above her infant head, Ashlee wasn’t physically able to grin, smirk or even scowl.“When you have a child – as a parent – all you do is hope that they’re healthy, and happy,” Amy said. “You want everything in the world for your children, and you’ll do anything.
“Having a little girl that has so much life and energy, and can’t smile, well -it just breaks your heart.”
Local doctors were perplexed, and it wasn’t until the Harris family visited University of California, San Francisco Medical Center that Ashlee was diagnosed. But even they didn’t have an answer for the Harris family – not right away at least.“They said there’s nothing they could really do,” Amy said.She was inconsolable.
“It’s exhausting,” she said. “Here you have this problem that you think is fixable. And it’s not something you can really talk about with other people … ‘my child can’t smile’ – and you know what kids are like. It’s so hard when your child comes home with questions, every day – it was just a very sad experience for a parent.”
Finally, they found a solution.
Last June, Ashlee underwent an eight-hour surgery at UCSF performed by Dr. William Hoffman, chief of the school’s division of plastic and reconstructive surgery. The procedure was called a “cranial re-animation.” Surgeons removed nerves and muscles from Ashlee’s thigh and transplanted them to her face through an incision behind her ear.