New procedure helps child smile for the first time

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.

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