August is kind of a tough month for me. Two years ago this month, I had my stroke and first brain surgery. Last August, I had my facial nerve reconstruction. The past two summers I have had to recover. After my stroke, besides having paralysis on the right side of my body, the left side of my face was paralyzed too. At first I couldn’t eat, swallow, or speak, but with therapy I was able to do these things again. I just couldn’t close my eye or smile. After many tests, the doctors found out my facial nerve had been permanently damaged.
We had heard from Dr. Muhonen, my neurosurgeon, about a surgery to replace the damaged facial nerve called cross-facial nerve reanimation. My parents researched a lot of doctors, and we had many consultations. My mom had a huge list of questions she asked every doctor. I got really tired of hearing those questions over an over again.
The final doctor we saw was Dr. Babak Azizzadeh. who is picture above with me at his practice. He is a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon and head and neck surgeon. He is the director of the Facial Paralysis Institute and has been on Oprah and other TV shows. His office was really nice, and his staff was really nice too.
One of the questions my mom asked every doctor was how many children they had done this type of surgery on. None of the doctors had done one in the last few years, if ever. Dr. Azizzadeh had done one on another little kid like me a couple of weeks before. I felt good right away and knew he was the right doctor for me. He is the only other doctor besides Dr. Muhonen that hugged me when they met me. I liked that.
Dr. Azizzadeh also has a nonprofit organization that helps people around the world. He works with the Global Smile Foundation to help others. I liked that he does that, and I knew he had a really big heart.
The surgery is really complicated. It is done in two or three stages over a two-year period. They used a nerve and muscle from my leg to replace the damaged nerve.
I was a little nervous but knew he cared about me and wanted me to get better. He even wore a Gracelet that I gave him for good luck. My smile started to come back four months after the second stage of the surgery. It is still a little crooked, but it is mine, and I love it. On August 31st, I will go to Los Angeles for the third stage of the surgery. It is my 10th surgery in two years. My mom scheduled it as late in summer as she could so I could enjoy my time in the sun.