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Gracie Gives Thanks to the Doctor Who Gave Her Back Her Smile

Tenth surgery on tap for stroke victim Gracie Doran, 11 this month.

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 , 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. 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.

At the end of this month, 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. 

After the surgery, no pool or beach for a while so I won't get bad scars. It is worth it, though.

Dr. Azizzadeh gave me my smile back. I will always be grateful to him and everyone at his office for that.

To learn more about Dr. Azizzadeh and the Facial Paralysis Institute, go to facialparalysisinstitute.com/

tricia August 10, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Nice to read your article as usual Gracie keep up the good work!
Cathie McGinnis August 10, 2011 at 08:14 PM
It is quite a blessing to have some of the best doctors right here in So Cal. This article was a nice tribute to your wonderful doctor. Love you! Cathie
Barbara Doran August 10, 2011 at 09:09 PM
Agreed Cathie, and we are grateful to all of her doctors and nurses for all they have done for Gracie.
Thea Bien August 11, 2011 at 05:47 AM
Oh Gracie, what a great story! I think I read it over 5 times, I just couldn't get enough!! You are becoming an amazing journalist. I love reading your articles and eagerly await the next one! Thanks for sharing this wonderful tribute to your doctors! Blessings, Thea Bien
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) August 11, 2011 at 04:32 PM
Thea: We are so happy to have the great Gracie writing about her adventures. She is a true inspiration to many.

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