It was June 2007 when Alan Doherty first underwent surgery to correct an extremely rare facial deformity that left him without a jaw or chin.
Now, more than a year later, the Irish teenager has finally completed the long journey to get the face he’s always wanted. The 18-year-old underwent the last of seven surgeries Monday at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
“Surgery was a great success,” lead plastic surgeon Dr. Elliott Rose told FOXNews.com. "This is an operation that hasn't been done before. It took a real team effort."
During the final facial contouring procedure — which Rose described as the refinement and sculpting surgery – he and his team sculpted the teenager’s neck, jaw line and reconstructed his lower lip and teeth.
“We also took a skin graft from his thigh area to help fill in the large indentation of his lower lip to rebuild the area,” Rose said.
Oral surgeon, Dr. Alex Greenberg, also fabricated a temporary denture, which is eventually going to be replaced by a permanent denture.
Doherty was born with an almost unheard-of condition called otofacial syndrome. The congenital deformity is so rare — there is only evidence of one other case like this in the world, according Mount Sinai
Most of these kids don’t survive because of the inability to breathe and eat properly,” Rose said. “It’s really the work of the doctors in Ireland that have helped Alan come this far. They were essential in his early life-saving resuscitation and permanently maintaining his breathing and feeding tubes throughout the years.”
Up until now, the teen has only been able to open up his mouth to about the size of a nickel. But, because of the success of the operation, everything has changed.
“The mouth is near normal dimensions now,” Rose said. “He’s able to open his mouth and smile.”
At this point, Rose and his colleagues are still unsure if Doherty will ever be able to breathe or eat on his own.
“We suspect based on what we were able to see that the tongue is so undeveloped it’s unlikely at this point that we will be able to restore swallowing and breathing,” Rose said. “But we’re still hopeful.”
The teenager will recover for 3-4 more days at Mount Sinai and will remain in New York on an out-patient basis until his doctors give him the green light to head back to Ireland.
As for his family – they are completely thrilled.
“His mom Bernie has been so supportive throughout this entire process,” Rose said. "She had the biggest smile on her face when the surgery was completed.”
Rose believes it was not only the support of Doherty’s family and country that led the teenager down this path – but the courage inside the 18-year-old.
“His tenacity is what really propelled him to have the operation,” Rose said. “Initially I think there was some concern on part of his parents, but it was Alan’s motivation that gave him the support to get him through these procedures.”
Thanks to Rose and his team, Doherty has a new lease on life.
“It’s a great success not only physically — but a new chance for his self-esteem and self-confidence.”
Check back with FOXNews.com in September for more on Doherty's recovery.
Timeline of Surgeries
June 11, 2007
Surgeons took Doherty’s hip bone — carved it into the shape of a jaw — and transferred it to his back where it was housed under the skin for several months. This allowed the bone to receive nourishment and surround itself with nerves until it was ready to be transplanted to his lower face.
October 17, 2007
Microsurgery was performed to give the Doherty a new jaw and lower half of his face. The marathon 16-plus hour surgery included the transfer of his "prefabricated" jaw and soft tissue of the lower face from the back to the head. Blood vessels from the back were spliced into the facial artery and vein to immediate restore circulation to the transferred tissue. The newly created jaw bone was plated to the skull to complete the facial architecture.
June 18, 2008
This surgery provided a more definitive shape and form to the teenager’s lower face and jaw. It included the insertion of internal slings to support his lower lip and chin as well as extensive sculpturing of his facial soft tissue. Surgeons also inserted an artificial chin implant.