Girl With Rare Facial Deterioration Saved by Surgery

"It's a very unique and interesting new way to look at the disease and an innovative way to look at reconstruction," said Dr. Seth Thaller, professor and chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine. "What's different is the timing -- most people wait until they get older."

Thaller added that some surgeons are using a combination of fat and stem cells, and that this method and Siebert's use of tissue that already has functional blood vessels deserve a closer look to determine success over time.

After Surgery: So Far, So Good

Siebert said Christine's first surgery went well. She will have to have another surgery in the spring for what he calls "fine tuning." He'll remove some of the extra tissue that's caused some swelling.

One of the advantages of his microsurgical technique is the minimal side effects, he said.

"Other than the expense, the recovery from surgery and a scar at the donor site, there isn't much of a downside," Siebert said.

Methotrexate and certain steroids, both other possible treatments, can have very bad side effects.

According to Honeycutt, the surgery cost several thousand dollars, and some of the money was raised through a special foundation set up to help Christine and others like her.

So far, Honeycutt said, she and her daughter are pleased with the results, but there are still a lot of unknowns.

"This is not a cure, it's an intervention. I hope the disease won't progress or take away bone or her eyesight," Honeycutt said.

Having to endure a facial deformity and the symptoms that go with it as well as taunts from her peers taught Honeycutt's little girl a very adult lesson.

"It's given her compassion for other children," she said.

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