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SAN DIMAS (CBSLA.com) —An 8-year-old San Dimas girl who grew up with a rare disorder that made her unable to smile was finally given the ability to show off her grin, thanks to a local doctor.
Hayley Brang suffers from Moebius syndrome, which is a congenital disorder that paralyzes facial muscles and makes it difficult for a person to eat, smile and talk.
“We were heartbroken,” said her mother, Heather Brang. “Obviously there are so many times where you’re taking a group picture… and everyone is yelling ‘smile’… and you would love nothing more than to see her smile at that point. But at the same time, she is who she is… and we love her for who she is.”
The Brang’s, however, refused to accept that they’d never see Hayley truly express herself.
The family found Dr. Randy Sherman, a reconstructive surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, to give Hayley, then 5 years old, a smile.
“Over the course of one year, we did two operations on Hayley. Both the same. One for one side and one for the other. We took a muscle from the inner thigh with its blood vessel and nerve, hooked it to a nerve and blood vessels in the face…allowed Hayley to smile whenever she would bite down,” said Sherman.
The surgeon said the young girl then became her own physical therapist.
“We asked Hayley to use a mirror to practice her smiling every day, every hour,” Sherman said.
Finally, one day, Hayley’s work paid off.
“(I felt) awesome…just awesome (when I saw her smile). That’s all that I need,” said Sherman.
Brang said, “Whenever I see Hayley smile, I am beyond excited that she finally has that ability to express her enthusiasm and show the world how happy she really is.”
CBS2’s Lisa Sigell said Hayley will never have complete use of all her facial muscles.
The 8-year-old is now working with a speech therapist.