CALEB Scott has faced the challenges of another surgery, this time to restore his smile, following a triumph over a brain tumour.
On September 4, 2015, then nine-year-old Caleb was found to have a four centimetre by four and a half centimetre brain tumour located on the floor of his brain.
Within three days of the diagnosis, doctors were operating on the young man, removing most of the stage four medulloblastoma tumour. Intensive treatment followed with chemotherapy and radiation part of Caleb’s day-to-day life for the last three years.
Removal of the tumour resulted in paralysis on the right hand side of his face. Mum Suzanne Turpie and step-father Rob Turpie never gave up hope.
The Cure My Brain organisation heard Caleb’s story and reached out to the family. It began the journey toward this latest surgery and gave them hope of seeing Caleb’s precious smile again.
"They reached out to us in late 2016 to see if they could help us, asking us many things including our hopes for the future," Suzanne said.
"Of course, for us, it was to get Caleb’s face fixed and this is where they stood up and helped beyond our wildest dreams."
We can never thank her enough for helping to get Caleb’s smile back.Suzanne Turpie
Cure My Brain organised appointments with various specialists including Dr Sydney Ch’ng, a plastic surgeon.
Dr Ch'ng was able to help, admitting Caleb to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at Camperdown on July 9 this year. He became the youngest adult to be treated there.
He underwent a marathon eight hour surgery to graft a muscle from his leg to his cheek.
Surgeons created a facial sling to lift and increase symmetry in Caleb’s face. Then they connected it to a nerve which will allow his face on the right hand side to move once fully healed.
He also had a one gram gold weight put into his eye lid to assist in closing his eye.
Caleb did not complain once throughout the entire procedure, instead focusing on the ultimate outcome - being able to smile again.
"Following the surgery we stayed in hospital for another four nights and then we had to stay in Sydney for another three weeks to be close to the hospital for check-ups and monitoring," Suzanne explained.
"We can already see how amazing the lift looks on Caleb’s face and the symmetry this has bought. The improvement is huge."
They will not see any movement in Caleb’s face for about three months, but when there is the slightest twitch on the right side of his face he will return to Sydney.
"That is when Caleb can learn how to smile again," she said.
"He will need to think about smiling and do the movements taught when he wants to smile.
"But it is all in the hope that eventually it will become natural to him and he won't have to think about smiling, it will just happen like it does for everyone else."
Further surgery when Caleb’s face heals will lift underneath his eye so it can close completely.
"Cure My Brain made all this possible. Without them, we would not have been able to fund this," Suzanne said.
"The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse were absolutely amazing and despite not being a paediatric hospital they provided the highest level of care for Caleb and our family.
"Dr Ch’ng ... we are just in awe of. The delicate work she has done on Caleb’s face is absolutely amazing and the outcome already is so beautiful.
"It's only going to get better. We can never thank her enough for helping to get Caleb’s smile back."
The family hope this operation will give Caleb a greater chance of leading a normal life.
His resting face already looks just like any other child his age, and in time, they are confident the smile they all love so much will return.