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Ears op boy fulfils sunglasses wish

Published 04/06/2015

Kieran Sorkin thanked his surgeon, saying
Kieran Sorkin thanked his surgeon, saying "he made my wishes come true - I've got ears and can wear sunglasses"

A boy born without any ears has fulfilled his simple wish to be able to wear a pair of sunglasses for the first time after having a new pair of ears created from his own ribs.

Nine-year-old Kieran Sorkin was born deaf and also had a rare condition which meant he did not have fully formed ears - just small lobes where his ears should be.

But last August, experts at the world renowned Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London performed a six hour operation where they used cartilage from his ribs to create a pair of ears and grafted them to his head.

Today, at an important follow-up appointment, his dreams came true when lead surgeon Neil Bulstrode said the ears had healed sufficiently for Kieran to sport sunglasses just in time for summer.

The schoolboy responded "Awesome!" before promptly putting on a pair for the first time and admiring them in a mirror.

Mr Bulstrode used an outline of his mother, Louise Sorkin's, own ears as a "family template'' to make them as close as possible to the shape that the youngster might otherwise have had.

Kieran said: "Before the operations I thought I might get elephant ears or mouse ears, but I've got my mum's ears.

"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."

While the procedure was primarily cosmetic, thanks to several previous operations and a hearing aid, the youngster has gradually been able to hear.

Kieran Sorkin with his parents Louise and David as he leaves Great Ormond Street Hospital in London
Kieran Sorkin with his parents Louise and David as he leaves Great Ormond Street Hospital in London
Kieran Sorkin with his parents Louise and David and younger brother Zac as he leaves Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Kieran Sorkin as he leaves Great Ormond Street Hospital in London

Kieran, from Bushey, Hertfordshire, struggled at his first school because he looked different to the other children but his new ears have already given a "huge" boost to his confidence.

He had spoken of having ear surgery since the age of six after he saw a TV programme about it.

Nursery school teacher Mrs Sorkin, 39, said: "Kieran has been very brave throughout this journey and the results today are overwhelming.

"We know we all made the right decision with Kieran to go ahead with surgery, it's already made such a huge difference to his self-esteem and confidence."

The youngster was born with bilateral microtia - which affects just one in 100,000 babies - a congenital deformity where the external ear is underdeveloped.

During the first operation, medics harvested the rib cartilage from both sides of Kieran's chest and then carved and shaped it into frameworks for ears.

They then grafted the ears on to Kieran's head under pockets of skin and used a vacuum to shape the skin to the contours of the new ear.

During a follow-up operation in February his new ears were lifted away from the sides of his head, and two further pieces of cartilage from his ribs were used like wedges to push them into the correct forwards position.

They were then covered in a skin graft taken from his scalp.

While the ear reconstruction is primarily a cosmetic procedure, GOSH consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon Mr Bulstrode said it stood to bring enormous benefits to Kieran.

He said: "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.

"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."

GOSH performs more ear reconstructions than any other hospital in the UK, including between 35 and 40 total reconstructions each year, five of which are bilateral reconstructions (both sides) like Kieran's.

Researchers at the hospital are working with the University College London Institute for Child Health to try and perform ear reconstructions for children like Kieran by growing new ear frameworks and other skeletal structures from a child's own stem cells.

They also hope to be able to use stem cells from a child's own fat to create a new ear, which would be far less invasive than the current treatment.

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