Meet another one of my superheros: This is Sebastian.
Three months after Maxim received Australia’s first custom 3D printed ear implant, Sebastian became the second recipient of this wonderful technology. But Sebastian is also another “first” for Australia because, in addition to his new big ear, we implanted a bone anchored hearing device, the Cochlear Baha® System.
While it was a long day for the surgical team, it was worth it to know that Sebastian and his family could head home the next day with the freedom to enjoy the recovery process and not be thinking about another operation.
As my head hit the pillow after the operation, I found out that Sebastian was awake and indulging in some midnight snacks, with minimal pain and keen to return home. As a father of 3 sons, I know that this result is everything for a parent who has spent many long nights wondering if they are making the right decisions for their child.
The support network around Sebastian is amazing, and it has been wonderful to see Maxim and his family also reaching out to support other families facing these choices. We all need to know we are not alone when facing such challenges, and meeting someone who can empathise with your situation can be incredibly reassuring.
More about Sebastian’s procedure
A major advantage of custom 3D printing is the ability to personalise medical implants. This is one of the amazing benefits emerging in many medical fields as a result of technological innovation. What was interesting for Sebastian’s ear reconstruction was that his other ear had a unique shape. In fact when Sebastian looked at three different printed ear models he immediately saw his one and said “that’s my ear!”.
Together with Basi and his family we decided to recreate his difference exactly in his new ear. Now he has two ears of a matching shape. This is what I love about personalised medicine; the freedom of choice back in the hands of the patient. It’s the way of the future!
The technique requires us to use a layer of vascularised tissue, known as the TPF flap, to wrap the whole implant, giving it a strong reliable blood supply, and then we use skin grafts to cover front and back of the ear in one surgery. It means we can get more projection than we used to get from the two stage cartilage technique - and in one stage, with less pain and time in hospital. This new technique has made a big difference for young kids with microtia.
Update 27 June 2019
It was another joyful day in the clinic today with our superhero Basi.
Sebastian’s 10 day old ear came out of its mould and it looks great!
No pain, only big smiles, cartoons on the iPad and I had to make good on a bet I made with Basi on day one.
He hadn’t forgotten about it, and when I asked him what he thought his present was, he said straight away, “a Nerf Gun?!”. I think I will be patching up the walls of the clinic for a week! But it was worth it.
The quotable quote of the day was Basi saying “This is super-dooper magic!”. That right there is why I do what I do. Couldn’t be prouder of Basi and his brave mum, Shirley, and slightly less brave dad Carlos, who managed to come into the clinic via FaceTime and didn’t faint on the other end of the line! 😉
Update 22 August 2019
Superheroes aren’t just brave, they also have super senses! It was amazing to see Basi’s face when his bone conducting hearing aid attached by a magnet was turned on and he could finally hear on both sides. I didn’t notice the sound processor at first, tucked in behind his new ear. Hard to believe how far he has come in what is just 9 weeks.
The Hear and Say Microtia & Atresia Annual Conference will be held on 14 & 15 September 2019 in Brisbane. It’s an opportunity for parents to find all the information, support and expertise in one place. I’ll be there too!