A Marshall Islands teen underwent a grueling 10 hours of surgery Friday to rebuild his already reconstructed nose after an infection left him disfigured for the second time.
Dallan Jennet, 16, was forced to go under the knife nearly a year after Manhattan surgeon Dr. Tal Dagan performed a breakthrough procedure to repair the nose that the boy lost in a freak accident.
“His nose is completely reconstructed,” Dagan, of New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, told the Daily News after the surgery. “It looks great.”
Jennet’s ordeal began seven years ago when, at age 9, he jumped from a tree onto a roof and hit a power line. The shock threw the boy off the roof and burned off his nose.
At the time, Jennet was so embarrassed by his face he refused to go to a local hospital to meet Dagan. So the doctor travelled to the boy’s remote location to see if there was anything that could be done.
“I explained that it would be a very long road of multiple surgeries,” Dagan recalled. “I had to borrow skin from his forehead. He was still on board because he really wanted his nose back.”
By all accounts, the 18-hour “3-D nose transplant” surgery last November — the first of its kind in the U.S. — was a major success.
It included removing most of Jennet’s face and the use of a cutting-edge laser that injected green dye into the boy’s blood to track flow.
Dagan took tissue from the teen’s forehead to build the outside of the nose. He also used skin from his thigh to fill in the depression on his face.
But back home Jennet incurred a serious setback when a metal plate in his nose got infected and caused his nostrils to close up. The surgeon believes Jennet likely wound up with the infection from playing on a beach sullied with sewage.
“Despite everything being in place and everything being good, sometimes we fight the forces of nature,” Dagan said.
So the surgeon worked a plan to have Jennet flown back to New York before the holiday season.
Before the procedure Friday to repair the boy’s nose, the two talked about how they have bonded over the past year.
“He’s nice — sometimes, he’s crazy — but he’s nice,” Jennet joked.
Dagan, who moved to the United States from Israel when he was 13, feels he can somewhat identify with his patient’s feelings of loneliness and isolation.
“Being ostracized is something I can totally identify with,” he said.
On Friday, Dagan used cartilage taken from a dead person’s rib to rebuild Jennet’s nose.
The doctor decided mid-surgery to wait on repairing the inside of Jennet’s sniffer. That procedure is expected to be done in three weeks. A week later, Jennet should be on his way home, his nose as good as new.
“I want Dallan to have a beautiful continuation into adult life,” Dagan said.
Jennet is looking forward to recovering from his last major surgery and beating Dagan on the basketball court.
“He’s not very good,” the teen quipped before the Friday procedure.