Facial reanimation gives people their smile back - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Facial reanimation gives people their smile back

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UNDATED (WJRT) - (05/30/14) - A smile can brighten someone's day - it's a way to greet each other and it makes us feel good - but what if you couldn't smile?

For some people, smiling is impossible. Their facial muscles don't move.

The young girl you are about to meet is one of those people - but her story may have a happy ending after all, thanks to state of the art surgery.

Grinning from ear to ear, your smile can light up a room, connecting you to others. It's an ability Abbie Honeycutt lost at age six. She had a brain tumor removed and lost function of her facial nerve.  

"I didn't smile a whole lot," she said.

Thanks to a technique known as facial reanimation, Doctor Jeffrey Marcus was able to give abbie her smile back.  

"It's giving people the ability to interact just like any other person. You know, to smile like any other person," Marcus said.

Doctors can connect a nerve graft from the normal side of the face to the paralyzed side, or surgeons can use the nerve responsible for chewing to give you your grin back.  

"And it gives you a very, very strong kind of contraction for a smile," Marcus said.

Also on the horizon - a robotic muscle.  

"Where this tiny little contraction device, which is like a synthetic muscle, is implanted," Marcus said.

Abbie now, at age 13, is beaming.

"Being confident that I could just smile," she said.

'Smile surgery' isn't just about making a person look better; facial paralysis also impacts a person's ability to feed themselves and speak.
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