Three-year-old Emmett Gervason has had his life-altering ear surgery in the United States, and is on the road to recovery, said his mother.
Speaking to the Voice from Palo Alto, California, Amanda Gervason, a nurse with the Niagara Health System, said that her son Emmett had the operation on Thursday, July 29.
“The surgery took about eight hours, like we expected. There were no unfortunate surprises, nothing the doctors worried about. They basically said the operation went well, and that Emmett’s middle-ear bones were better than they expected. They are very optimistic for his hearing outcome.”
Emmett was born with pediatric microtia in his left ear, a congenital deformity in which the ear is small and misshapen. He also has atresia, a condition in which he is missing the ear canal, rendering him deaf on one side. Emmett has problems identifying the direction of sounds and coping with noise, and has several learning deficits affecting his speech and language skills. The surgery could conceivably improve 80 percent of the hearing capability in his ear.
Amanda said that the doctors did not need to construct any middle-ear prosthetics, other than an artificial eardrum. The procedure should not only restore Emmett’s hearing, but cosmetically re-sculpt his ear to a normal shape. Doctors attached an external ear mould to Emmett’s head, with a dressing that needs to be changed as swelling subsides.
“At the four-week mark, they will reassess everything. If the healing goes well, then there’s a chance we get to go home a little early,” said Amanda.
“The first day was rough, as Emmett’s head bandage was uncomfortable for him,” she said. “Doctors removed his bandages, and now the grafts and external ear mould are exposed. It’s going to take some getting used to. Emmy is not a fan of the mould, as it is stitched to his head, and is itchy. The after-care has been challenging as we have to keep him from running, jumping, and sleeping on that side of his head. We are excited to be ‘over the hump,’ but the surgeon said the after-care is the hardest part.”
Gervason said that Emmett is in good spirits, despite being denied the normal physical play time that children relish.
Surgeons Dr. Youssef Tahiri and Dr. Joseph Roberson of the CEI Medical Group in Palo Alto, performed the operation. Gervason said that Roberson is an internationally renowned specialist in otology, neurotology, and skull base Surgery, and attracts patients from around the world.
“The doctors texted us throughout the whole surgery, to let us know how things were going, which made the whole process so much less stressful,” said Amanda. “We are so happy with the medical team—they are world-class.”
Amanda and her husband, Aaron Gervason, left their daughter, Alora, who is just shy of two years old, with family in Niagara while the flew to California with Emmett.
“She’s been doing okay,” said Amanda. “It was a bit of an adjustment for her initially, with her parents and brother gone, but she has the familiarity of my grandparents, because they watch her a lot. So that was comforting for her. And then they show her pictures of us every day.”
Although Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital is capable of performing the necessary corrective surgery, Emmett does not qualify for the operation until he turns 10, and his parents were unwilling to see him struggle developmentally and emotionally in the interim.
The Gervason’s total costs for the surgery, plus post-operative costs, will likely exceed a quarter million dollars. Friends organized a GoFundMe account in an effort to cover expenses, which currently totals some $227,000 [full disclosure: the Voice is a contributor]. Contributions are still welcomed at https://ca.gofundme.com/f/an-ear-for-emmy