Ears Back, Confidence Up
Kayla Johnson was only a preschooler, but already she was feeling self-conscious about her ears. They were large and jutted out from her head like jug handles. "She'd ask me, 'Why are my ears so big?' " says her mother, Tracy. Protruding ears occur when the ears form abnormally, causing them to pull away from the head. The condition is often hereditary.
Tracy and her husband, Vince, weren't planning to do anything about Kayla's ears. The suburban Ohio couple was more concerned about a birthmark on her forehead that they had been told could eventually become cancerous. But during a consultation about the birthmark with James Lehman, M.D., a plastic surgeon at the Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron, Tracy broached the subject of her daughter's ears. Dr. Lehman suggested pinning them back and removing the birthmark at the same time. Kayla would already be under anesthesia, he reasoned. Tracy recalls him saying, "Her ears are going to have to be done at some point. Let's do it now before it becomes a bigger problem in her life."
In November 2000, 4-year-old Kayla had her surgery. Dr. Lehman created a fold along the ear rim and removed some cartilage from the bowl-like section surrounding the inner ear; he also removed her birthmark. When the mass of white bandages came off a week later, Tracy and Vince were amazed. Their daughter's ears were flush against her head, and the scars were undetectable. Kayla was no less thrilled. "Let's go show Grandma!" she said.
For months after the surgery, Kayla would proudly show off her new ears to friends and family members. She got her hair cut, and more than a year later, she still makes a point of tucking it behind her ears-something she wasn't able to do before the surgery. "These little things have made such a big difference for Kayla," Tracy says. "I had some doubts at first, but now I think it's the best thing we could have done for her."