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Your Healthy Family: Young cancer survivor loses ability to smile

Posted at 9:55 AM, Oct 04, 2018
and last updated 2019-07-09 11:27:42-04

COLORADO SPRINGS – Can you imagine not smiling?  You may think you know someone who never smiles, or you may rarely smile yourself.  It’s a different matter when you don’t have the ability to smile. That’s when you may realize a smile is a simple thing that many of us take for granted.

Dr. Fred Deleyiannis is a plastic surgeon with UCHealth Memorial in Colorado Springs.  Dr. Deleyiannis says a smile is much more than moving muscles in your face. “It’s essential to express emotion, and also for social interaction.  If someone can’t smile fully, because of paralysis in the face, it will handicap them for life.”

Grace Cuellar is a confident, outgoing and fun-loving 9-year-old who has come a long way in her young life.

Grace’s mother, Shelly, says, “she’s our little fighter.  At 2-and-a-half, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and went through brain surgery.  Shortly after the surgery she had a mini-stroke that caused paralysis in her face, and arm and legs.”

Shelly says over time, Grace regained use of her arms and legs, but not half of her face.  For a few years it didn’t really matter, because in the big picture the Cuellars were overjoyed Grace was alive and cancer-free.

Shelly says as Grace grew, she began to notice things in other people.  “When school started she started noticing when other people were noticing her face.  When we would go to the park or eat out, people would notice or stare and she would question it.  She would ask us ‘why is my face different?’ We wanted her to be able to smile.”

The big question was could anything be done?  Shelly explains that after Grace’s mini-stroke, “We were told at that time there was nothing that could be done for her face.  We prayed for a long time for a miracle and now seven years later we have our miracle.”

In our next story we’ll share that miracle and tell you about the surgery Dr. Deleyiannis performed on Grace at UCHealth Memorial Central Hospital and Grace will share with us the results that have helped this little girl blossom in new ways.

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