Perhaps it was not so surprising to have an “out of body” experience when watching the premiere of the new X Files mini-series. At one point, Dr. Dana Scully is reviewing patient photos for an upcoming procedure on a child with microtia, a condition where the external ear does not form. Given the subject matter of the show, the child’s head, devoid of ears, looked like an alien head, reminiscent of alleged images of aliens who landed in Roswell New Mexico in the 50’s.
The plot line and alien innuendo aside, kudo’s to the X files for shining a light on a condition that is known to very few outside of the world of reconstructive plastic surgery. Microtia is a very real congenital condition that affects people around the world. In certain cultures, these children born without an external ear structure, are shunned because of this deformity. In some cases their families are shunned, and some parents may suffer from unfounded emotional guilt, feeling responsible for the disfigurement that plagues their child.
Just before watching the show, I had been at a Board meeting for ReSurge International http://www.resurge.org/home/home.cfm, where we talked about microtia. At ReSurge International , we not only provide surgeries to remedy the condition, but through our Global Training Program, we teach surgeons in developing countries how to handle this type of reconstructive plastic surgery. In fact, in October of 2015 we convened our first program to train plastic surgeons in Vietnam on the proper way to handle an ear reconstruction. At one Board meeting, our Consulting Medical Officer, shared photo’s from the session, where the attendees were practicing fashioning external ears from potatoes. Once they mastered that, they would do the same with cartilage. The results were amazing.
As a result of that training, these surgeons will be able to provide a surgery that will eliminate this deformity for their patients, and in so doing transform their lives. No longer will they be shunned, no longer will they look like aliens. That is the power of reconstructive surgery.