Imagine not having the ability to smile. It can be devastating, but now, there is a new pediatric facial procedure that can help children dealing with paralysis.
Fifteen-year-old Natalie Wright lost her smile at age four when doctors removed a brain tumor. The surgery saved her life, but left her face partially paralyzed.
But now, doctors are using a revolutionary medical procedure to restore some natural movement in the face. It's called facial reanimation surgery. In a two-part procedure, doctors removed a nerve and muscle from Natalie's leg which were then implanted in her face and connected to the side not affected by paralysis.
"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," said Dr. Douglas Henstrom, Natalie's surgeon.
"I'm just very blessed and excited," Wright said.
Natalie was the first child in Iowa to undergo this 11-hour surgery.
There are also many adults who have used facial reanimation surgery to bring back a smile that was partially paralyzed, often after a stroke.