Not many nine-year-olds desire to have a “big pair of ears” but before the operation, it was Kieran Sorkin’s biggest wish.
Experts at the world renowned Great Ormond Street Hospital (Gosh) in London performed a six-hour operation last week in which they used cartilage from his ribs to create ears and grafted them to his head.
The youngster was born deaf and had a rare condition which meant he did not have fully formed ears, just small lobes.
While the latest procedure was primarily cosmetic, thanks to several previous operations and a hearing aid, Kieran has gradually been able to hear.
Without help, he is still 90 per cent deaf but, when using hearing aids, he can “hear the wind blow and the birds tweet”, his father David said.
Kieran, from Bushey, Hertfordshire, struggled at his first school because he looked different to the other children.
But Mr Sorkin said that the operation will boost the youngster’s confidence “no end”.
Before the surgery, Kieran said: “I’ve always wanted big ears, and now I’m finally going to have them.”
Following the procedure, his parents helped him to take a photograph of his newly crafted ear, or a “side selfie”, to which he simply replied: “Wow”.
Mr Sorkin said that he and his wife Louise were delighted with the outcome. “We’re absolutely on cloud nine,” he said. “They look normal bar a couple of sewing marks which will go away in time. His reaction was just a ‘Wow’. He is very happy.”
The 44-year-old IT manager added: “It’s been heart-wrenching and we’ve had the moral dilemma all along of whether it’s right to change the features Kieran was born with. But Kieran has talked about having ear surgery ever since the age of six when he saw a TV programme about it.”
He also described Kieran’s difficulties at school, saying: “He had problems in that he didn’t gel very well because he looked different to other kids and he only had one or two friends.
“He has now moved to a different school and they have a deaf unit in every year so they are a little bit more receptive.”
Kieran was born with bilateral microtia, a congenital deformity where the external ear is underdeveloped and which affects just one in 100,000 babies.
Gosh consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon Neil Bulstrode harvested the rib cartilage from both sides of Kieran’s chest and then carved and shaped it into frameworks for the ears.
He used an outline of Mrs Sorkin’s ears as a “family template” to make them as close as possible to the ear shape the youngster might otherwise have had.
He grafted the ears on to Kieran’s head under pockets of skin and then used a vacuum to shape the skin to the contours.
“It’s a major operation but it brings a significant improvement in quality of life for children with microtia,” said Mr Bulstrode. “Their confidence improves exponentially.”