Last summer, a 9-year-old British boy named Kieran Sorkin underwent a procedure in which doctors removed cartilage from his ribs, and from it created two ears that were then surgically attached to his head. Sorkin was born with a condition known as bilateral microtia in which the external portion of the ear is not fully formed. The condition affects 1 in 100,000 children.
On Thursday, Sorkin got good news from Dr. Neil Bulstrode, the surgeon who led the procedure at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. His ears had healed just fine and he could now sport a pair of sunglasses just in time for summer.
"Awesome," Sorkin exclaimed, according to The Guardian, and then he donned his first pair of shades and admired them in a mirror.
In creating his new ears, doctors used Sorkin's mom's ears as a model.
"Before the operations I thought I might get elephant ears or mouse ears, but I've got my mum's ears," Sorkin told The Guardian. "It's weird but I feel great. Mr. Bulstrode is the best surgeon as he made my wishes come true -- I've got ears and can wear sunglasses."
In creating Sorkin's new ears, the doctors molded the boy's rib cartilage into a scaffold of sorts for each ear. They then attached them to his head beneath pockets of skin and used a vacuum to get the skin to fit to the shape of the framework.
According to The Guardian, Great Ormond Street performs the highest number of ear reconstructions in the UK every year. Researchers there are currently working with other institutions to see if they can grow new ears from a patient's own stem cells, which would create a much less invasive procedure.
"I'm very pleased with the shape and definition of the ears, but for me the most important thing is the way this has made Kieran feel and how pleased he and his family are," Bulstrode told The Guardian. "The operation has already had a huge impact on his confidence, and this could have a transformative effect on his life as he gets older."