September 30, 2022 by KiKi Bochi
Surgery Offers the Gift of a Smile
For the 12th year, doctors, nurses and surgical staff from Baptist Children’s Hospital donated their time to restore smiles to children, whose deformities had dulled their happiness and confidence.
Seven-year-old Katyana Guzman from Key West, who was born without an upper ear, and 16-year-old Kendall resident Omar Cobas, who has undergone four other surgeries to correct the cleft lip and cleft palate he had at birth, are smiling a bit brighter today after their reconstructive surgeries over the weekend during the hospital’s Day of Smiles.
In previous surgeries, Katyana’s plastic surgeon, Jhonny Salomon, M.D., created an outer ear using a piece of her rib and attached that structure to the lower portion of her ear, which she had at birth.
With her latest surgery, Dr. Salomon, used another part of her rib to detach the top portion of her reconstructed ear from her head, just as a normal ear is separate from the side of the head.
Meanwhile, plastic surgeon Joshua Lampert, M.D., continued his work from last year on Omar’s lip, nose and palate, transplanting a piece of his right hip bone to close the hole still present in the roof of his mouth.
Dr. Lampert also took fat from Omar’s midsection to plump his top lip, scarred by prior surgeries and his original cleft lip. He also reconstructed the teen’s nose to make his face more symmetrical.
Both Katyana and Omar look forward to their recovery and getting back to their everyday lives. Katyana, with her long hair that covers her ear, hopes for a different haircut. Omar wants to start 10th grade at South Miami Senior High School after a summer of fun. He also sees himself becoming a rockstar and a chef.
The children and their families say they are grateful to the doctors, nurses and staff of Baptist Children’s Hospital for giving them the life-changing surgeries they’ve received at no cost. Without this event, they say, they would not have had the chance to undergo these surgeries.
Day of Smiles was brought to Baptist Children’s Hospital in 2001 by Joel Levin, M.D., a plastic surgeon whose work as a trauma surgeon during the Vietnam War inspired him to volunteer as part of Operation Smile, an international charitable organization that provides free reconstructive surgery to children born with facial deformities. The hospital has continued the event as part of its charitable mission to serve the needs of those in the community.
Dr. Levin says that serving kids in this way is his favorite thing on earth. “I feel good,” he said.