Doctors can literally hear the blood flowing in 7-year-old Chelsey Thomas' left cheek.
Which is good: It means Chelsey is that much closer to smiling for the first time.
Born with a rare neurological disorder called Moebius syndrome that causes partial facial paralysis, Chelsey, of Palmdale, underwent the first of a two-part surgery at Kaiser Permanente's Woodland Hills Medical Center a little more than a month ago. She is recovering well, her mother reports.
"The doctors listened to her cheek recently, and they said the blood flow in the new vessels was strong," Lori Thomas said this week.
A microvascular surgeon from Canada labored with Kaiser surgeons for more than 10 hours during the December surgery, working only on the left side of Chelsey's face. They took a muscle from her thigh and transplanted it in her cheek, along with new blood vessels and arteries.
"She won't be able to try a [half] smile for at least another two months," Thomas said. But for now, swelling on the left side of her face has gone down, and Chelsey is again eating solid foods.
The second surgery, on the right side of her face, is scheduled for sometime in April, Thomas said.
Chelsey wanted to be able to smile before her 8th birthday in June. She planned to celebrate with a big birthday party. Because she won't be fully recovered from her second surgery by then, that is not likely to happen.
So she's decided to wait until she's fully able to smile--perhaps by July--and throw a huge "smile party" for all her friends.
"She's going to have everybody do things that will make them smile," Thomas said.