9-year-old cancer survivor can finally smile thanks to surgeon

A nine-year-old cancer survivor is able to smile for the first time in seven years thanks to a revolutionary surgery.

Colorado native Grace Cuellar was diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent surgery at just two years old. That led to a mini-stroke and caused paralysis in half her face, arms and legs.

KOAA reports that Cuellar eventually found herself cancer-free and the feeling in her limbs had returned. The facial paralysis never went away.

But a trip to an eye specialist to treat strabismus provided a solution.

“(The specialist) told us ‘I heard of this doctor at a conference and I think it would be great for you guys to go see him,’” Grace’s mother, Shelly, said. “That is how we were introduced to Dr. Deleyiannis.”

Dr. Frederic Deleyiannis performed microvascular surgery to add muscle tissue and reattach nerves and blood vessels to Cuellar’s face.

“We came up with a solution which is the standard way to treat someone with facial paralysis,” explained Deleyiannis. “It involves taking a piece of muscle from the thigh, called the gracilis muscle, and then placing it under the cheek in the area basically that is responsible for facial movement.  The vessels that supply the muscle are then connected to the vessels in the neck and the nerve that makes the muscle contract in the leg is then connected to a nerve in the face that enables a person to smile.”

Grace’s mother claimed to have noticed an immediate improvement after the procedure.

“We prayed for a long time for a miracle and now seven years later we have our miracle,” Grace’s mother, Shelly, said.

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