Kieran was born with a condition known as microtia, which is a congenital deformity that causes the external ear, or pinna, to be underdeveloped. The condition is quite rare, and occurs in one baby out of every 8,000 to 10,000 births around the world.
Kieran was born deaf because of the condition, and had previously undergone surgery to implant a hearing aid to fix the problem, but he was still embarrassed about the way his missing ears made him look. “I want people to stop asking me questions,” Kieran told BBC News in a report filmed before the surgery. “I’d like just to look like my friends.”
He was approved for a special procedure conducted at Britain’s Great Ormond Street Hospital where plastic surgeons would craft new ears from the cartilage extracted from six of his ribs. But first, lead plastic surgeon Neil Bulstrode needed to draw up a stencil, and used Kieran’s mum’s ears as a guide. “When a patient has one ear we can match the new ear to that,” he told the BBC. “Fortunately Kieran’s mum has very pretty ears so that should work well.”
“In the [operating] theatre, the surgical team remove cartilage from six of his ribs. It is cut, shaped and sewn,” says Fergus Walsh at BBC News. “Kieran’s ears were shaped from cartilage taken from his ribs. These frameworks are inserted in pockets in the skin and then using suction, they take on the shape of an ear on both sides.”
While the surgery is purely cosmetic – Kieran’s new ears aren’t functional – Bulstrode highlights the psychological benefits for Kieran to not have to worry about being the boy with the missing ears anymore. “If you can change the confidence of a patient at this young age, you can change their whole trajectory in life,” he said. “You see this when they come back. It’s a huge boost for them.”