Plastic surgeon renews Irishman's hope

by Jessica Smith
07/20/2011 at 10:00AM
Alan Doherty

Alan Doherty © Irish

Alan Doherty, 21, has struggled each day of his life with the simple but necessary acts of eating, talking and even breathing. Doherty, of Letterkenny, Ireland, was born with a rare maxillofacial condition called Otofacial syndrome - that is, without a lower jaw. But a leading plastic surgeon in Ireland says he's ready to take a fresh look at the young man, who had undergone several procedures that left his facial appearance and physical functionality only slightly improved.

Doherty, who's forced to eat and breathe through a system of tubes, visited the United States six times for surgery in 2008-10. He left the Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, after having achieved little progress and with little hope for better results - until now. Doherty's hopes were recently renewed after meeting with leading Irish plastic surgeon Pat Treacy, MD, The Irish Times newspaper reported July 19.

Doherty said the consultation with Dr. Treacy - a doctor at the Ailesbury Clinic in Dublin - went very well. "Dr. Tracey examined my face and jaws with his assistant doctor. He injected medicine to my right jaw, into my lower lip and to the chin," he told The Irish Times. "I am beginning to make a little progress."

Right now, Doherty communicates with a Lightwriter - a text-to-voice communication aid - and through e-mail and Facebook. Doherty has hopes that Dr. Treacy will be able to give him a new chin. This would help pave the way for him learn to talk, eat solid foods and breathe on his own. Doherty said that he knows not to be too sure of successful results after previous surgical failures to significantly improve his condition.

Although he's faced hardships, Doherty's positive attitude has inspired many people, including Paul McBride - the driving force behind the Friends of Alan Doherty Fund, which has raised more than €1 million (slightly more than $1.4 million U.S.) to date, according to The Irish Times.

Doherty was scheduled for a follow-up consultation with Dr. Treacy in late July, the newspaper reported.