Lisa Sullenberger has spent her life wishing she could enjoy a simple pleasure most of us take for granted every day.
For 45 years, the mom-of-two from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, hasn’t been able to fully express her happiness — at least, not outwardly. Lisa has lived with facial paralysis on her right side ever since she was a little girl, when she was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. As such, she could only really smile on one side.
“I couldn’t move the right side of my face, so my smile was very lopsided, and I wasn’t able to show emotion,” Lisa said. While her husband, kids, and friends beamed for the camera, she appeared sullen. It wasn’t a true reflection of her bubbly personality, and, over the years, it took a toll on Lisa’s confidence.
But that was before Doctor Prabhat Bhama stepped in to give Lisa a life-changing gift. Under the Kaiser Permanente surgeon’s skilled hands, Lisa recently underwent two operations to get the face she’s dreamed of her whole life.
Because of her partial paralysis, Lisa also couldn’t fully close her right eye. So Dr. Bhama inserted a small weight into her eyelid to fix the issue. It worked perfectly.
Then, in another surgery, Dr. Bhama took a muscle from Lisa’s thigh and used it to recreate the “smile muscles” in her face. Now, Lisa can finally express herself the way she’s always wanted to. And with time, her smile will grow even bigger as she gains control of the new muscles. Impacting her life in such a huge way has been a humbling experience for Dr. Bhama.
“She’s a very happy person inside,” the surgeon said. “For her to be able to express that for the first time, to me, it was really meaningful.”
As for Lisa, she couldn’t be happier with the results. “God is amazing, that he restored my smile! I get up and I can smile today,” she said. We wouldn’t be surprised at all to hear Lisa hasn’t stopped grinning since. She has a lot of time to make up for, after all.
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This story was submitted by Morning Smiler Stephanie Brack.
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