All Wishes Come True for Boy Born Without Ears
It’s not very common, but some babies are born with only one ear because of a condition called microtia, or bilateral microtia when it affects both ears. In the UK, microtia affects around 100 children every year.
Nine-year-old Kieran Sorkin from Hertfordshire in England was one of these children. He was born deaf and only had small lobes where his ears would have been if they had developed properly.
Kieran had a hearing aid implanted so he was able to hear better, but when he started school, he struggled to make friends because the other children couldn’t understand why he didn’t look like them.
After changing schools – to one with a deafness unit for every year group – he blossomed and made lots of friends. But what he wanted, more than anything, was to look like his friends, and be able to wear earphones and sunglasses.
Then, when he was six, Kieran watched a TV programme about ear surgery, and that’s when he decided that he wanted to have ears just like everyone else. He longed to have ears of his own, and his family just wanted him to be happy and accepted by everyone else.
And last year, the first part of his wish came true!
In August, Kieran and his mum Louise went to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London to get his new ears.
Dr Neil Bulstrode was the consultant plastic surgeon, who explained that when a patient has one ear, they can match the new one to it. However, in Kieran’s case, the doctor stencilled the shape of Louise’s ears and said they should work just as well.
The operation wouldn’t actually help Kieran’s hearing, but would give him the ears he spent years yearning for.
To start with, the surgeons removed a little cartilage from six of Kieran’s ribs. They then cut the cartilage, shaped it, and sewed the ear frames onto his head. Skin was then taken from his scalp to make pockets for the cartilage frames to sit in and suction was used to take the air out to help the ears take their proper shape.
Believe it or not, Great Ormond Street Hospital actually carries out around 40 of these operations every year, though they usually have one ear to work from. For bilateral reconstructions, like Kieran’s, sometimes they work on one ear at a time. But by creating both at the same time, it meant the team were more able to make sure the boy’s ears were balanced just right.
Dr Bulstrode explained that the operation can bring huge psychological benefits. The patients’ confidence increases massively, and, as a result, their performance at school also gets a boost. “If you can change the confidence of a patient at this young age,” he said, “you can change their whole trajectory in life.”
Within ten years or so, a less invasive procedure, using stem cells to grow ears, could be implemented, which would mean cartilage wouldn’t have to be taken from the patient’s rib cage.
Of course, Kieran didn’t mind, and despite the pain in his ribs, his reaction, when he saw himself in a mirror three days after his operation, was one of awe. “Wow!” he said, followed by a fit of giggles.
Although already delighted with the result, Kieran still wouldn’t be able to wear sunglasses or earphones just yet. He would need to have another operation six months after the first, in February, to make his ears stand out from his head more.
And now, almost a year after first getting his ears, Kieran has finally been given the go-ahead to wear sunglasses for the first time ever – just in time for summer!
He slipped them on and caught sight of himself in the mirror. “Awesome!” he exclaimed, with a big grin on his face.
Kieran’s mum and dad, David, said that they had been worried they were making the right choice for their son, changing the features he was born with. But it was important to them that it was Kieran’s choice and they are so happy that they allowed him to go through with it.
“Kieran has been brave throughout this journey, and the results are overwhelming,” said Louise. “It’s already made such a huge difference to his self-esteem and confidence.”
The happy boy admitted that he was worried about the ears he would get – maybe elephant ears, or like a mouse – but he is pleased with having his mum’s ears.
“It is weird, but I feel great,” he said. “Dr Bulstrode is the best surgeon as he made my wishes come true!”