Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Doctors tell man born without chin: there’s nothing more we can do

Alan Doherty
Alan Doherty before the painstaking operation
Digitally-enhanced image of Alan Doherty's face, post operation

Brave student Alan Doherty, who was born without a chin, has returned home from America after medics in New York called a halt to their pioneering surgery to give him a new look.

Alan arrived home in Donegal on Sunday after doctors told him there was nothing more they could do for him after a lengthy and costly series of operations over the last three years.

The surgery, carried out during seven transatlantic visits by Alan, cost 1.2m euro (£983,000) and last year his family said they were disappointed with the outcome of the operations.

Alan’s American dream started in the summer of 2007 as headline news on every TV station in the USA, but at the weekend he slipped anonymously away from New York after a low-key end to his odyssey.

In stark contrast to the high profile start of his surgery, not a single camera was present to record the 20-year-old’s departure from the Big Apple.

Since June 2007, Alan has bravely endured a string of painful operations to give him a new lower jaw but the procedures have been plagued with |infections which have forced him and his family to extend their stays in New York.

In December 2008 surgeons held a news conference at the Mount Sinai hospital in New York to tell the world’s media that the operations on Alan had been a success.

But last year the parents of the Letterkenny man — who can only speak using a Light Writer keyboard — said they were unhappy with the results of the complicated surgery.

They were upset that Alan had not been given the new appearance they were expecting and they were also concerned about heavy scarring left on his body as the result of the removal of bones for his chin implant.

During Alan’s most recent visit, surgeons carried out a number of skin grafts from his thigh and neck to use on his lips and dental experts tried to solve problems with two protheses in his mouth.

Alan and his family are to meet with their medical advisors and fund-raisers over the coming days before making any comment on the end result of the surgery.

The Friends of Alan Doherty charity worked around the clock to raise the money to pay for his operations and other costs for travel and accommodation.

Thousands of people, including many well-wishers in Northern Ireland, made donations to the charity fund.

Rangers supporters clubs rallied to Alan’s aid, even though he is a fanatical Glasgow Celtic supporter.

And he was guest of honour at Parkhead, where he made the half-time prize draw on the pitch in front of 60,000 supporters.

Former Taioseach Bertie Ahern’s last public engagement was an address to a gala ball in honour of Alan in Letterkenny in April 2008.

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