Patient Spotlight

Meet Wilsi…

Wilsi was referred to our Facial Nerve Center (FNC) at the age of 15, having lived with right sided facial palsy since a traumatic accident caused her facial nerve injury at the age of 2. Wilsi was taking an art class in Boston when one of our current patients in the art class approached her and shared her positive experience here at the FNC. After sharing this new information with her mom, Wilsi met with Dr. Hadlock and Dr. Jowett who offered her hope in restoring her smile through the 2 stage gracilis transfer surgery using the cross face nerve graft. In brief, a tiny part of the gracilis muscle (located in your thigh) is removed and placed in the affected cheek (somewhat on top of your old smile muscle that is no longer getting proper nerve input) and connected to the facial nerve from the unaffected side. The expected outcome from this surgery is that when you smile, there are nerve signals from your unaffected facial nerve going to your new smile muscle, the gracilis muscle. We call this result a spontaneous smile, as the smile should spontaneously occur from your unaffected side. Patience is a virtue in this 2 stage gracilis transfer surgery, as the process from start to finish is approximately 2 years, including two surgeries and typically a few months of facial physical therapy to learn to optimally smile with these new nerves and muscles in place.

After a childhood of being timid, and being robbed of a teenage girls’ time of selfies and photos with friends, Wilsi has a lot to smile about! Just look at her graduation photos. She graduated from Boston Community Leadership Academy as class valedictorian, and earned a scholarship to her top choice college. Boston University is gaining an independent, strong, bright and beautiful young lady.

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