Six years ago, a nine-year-old boy named Dalan Jennet fell from a tree onto a live power line, badly burning his entire face. Doctors were able to save him, but the Marshall Islands boy lost most of his vision and was left without a nose. Traumatized, he stopped going to school and spent most of his days at home. Now, thanks to doctors at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, Jennet’s confidence is restored.
Dr. Tal Dagan, an associate adjunct surgeon at Mount Sinai, was struck by Jennet’s story and believed he could help. Dr. Dagan was familiar with 3D printing technology and its recent uses in reconstructive surgeries, and he decided that he could use it to build Jennet a new nose.
“He basically stopped going to school and was completely isolated,” said Dr. Dagan. “And that’s something that I connected with. And said, I think we’re going to try to pull this off.”
After Jennet underwent a preliminary surgery at home in the Marshall Islands to expand the remaining skin around his nose, he came to New York. Following an extensive surgery by Dr. Dagan and his team, the now 15-year-old boy has a completely new nose.
Not only is Jennet’s confidence restored, but he can also smell again; rather than being a merely cosmetic procedure, the surgery restored the full function of his senses. Doctors utilized lasers to convert scar tissue so that it could be used to line the inside of Jennet’s new nose. Now he can smell, taste, and has discovered a new love for pepperoni pizza. The surgeons were also able to restore his vision; previously, he had been nearly legally blind. Now he has 20/20 vision.
“This is complete science fiction,” Dr. Dagan said. “You’re getting a completely new type of technology.”
Facial reconstructive surgery has only been around for the last decade. The first partial face transplant was completed in 2005, and the first-ever full facial transplant was performed in 2011. Since then, the procedure has advanced rapidly, with 3D printing playing a major role. In August, the most complex facial reconstruction ever was performed on a firefighter, who had lost the majority of his facial features in a fire 14 years ago.
Jennet’s surgery was so successful that the doctors who worked on it are planning to use the same procedure in the future for other facial reconstructive surgeries. In particular, they want to use it for injured soldiers returning from war.
As for Jennet, he is recovering nicely two months after his surgery. He is planning to go back to school soon, for the first time in six years. At only 15, he has a long life ahead of him, a life that, only a short while ago, looked to be a bleak and isolated one. Now he can look forward to the same things that most kids his age can. And that’s a great sign of hope for others like him. Thanks to medical technology including 3D printing, the loss of one’s nose, eyes or entire face is no longer the life sentence it used to be.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this heartwarming story in the 3D Printed Nose forum thread on 3DPB.com.