Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (1)

Saving Face: Kiddies and Kitties

I read a touching story at the BBC news center about a young woman with Alpert’s Syndrome. This rare syndrome is present in only 1 in 170,000 births. It results in facial disfigurement and mitten-like hands.

The physical defects of Apert’s syndrome were first described by Fredrick Apert in 1942. These characteristics include: A tower-shaped skull due to craniosynostosis (premature fusion of the sutures of the skull)—an underdeveloped mid-face leading to recessed cheekbones and prominent eyes, malocclusion (Faulty contact between the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed) and limb abnormalities such as webbing of the middle digits of the hands and feet.

Bones of the fingers and toes are fused in Alpert’s infants giving a “mitten-like” appearance of their hands. Children with Apert’s syndrome can have unusual speech characteristics such as hyponasal resonance due to an under-developed mid face, small nose and long soft palate and, sometimes, cleft palate.

What struck me about the girl’s story was how she described how it felt to be teased growing up, and how the worst part of the teasing was that no one stuck up for her. I’ve seen kids do this kind of thing before, and I can imagine how painful it is when no one has the courage to go to bat for you. I’ve often wondered how “doing nothing” to defend a little one might be just as bad as actively harrassing them. I’d encourage parents to teach their children not to tease others, and beyond that, to come to the defense of those being teased. I bet this will do a lot of psychological good for the victims.

The good news in this case is that the girl has had some very successful reconstructive surgery and has a fairly normal life. The teen is even thinking about boyfriends, and preparing for college. Many thanks to the surgeons who did such a wonderful job.

And coincidentally, the Happy Hospitalist brought this story to my attention: a 4 month old kitten was in a horrible accident that resulted in her losing the front half of her face. Veterinarians were able to save her life, though she remains quite deformed. I am told that the kitty is not in any pain, and is enjoying her life as a therapy pet. She brings hope to those recovering in the hospital from surgeries and serious illnesses. I suppose they see her as a loving animal who is cheerfully going about her kitty business, without giving much thought to her previous injury.

These stories of hope are made possible by the surgeons and veterinarians who devote their lives to saving face. In so doing, they provide the rest of us with valuable lessons, and new friends of exemplary courage.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

One Response to “Saving Face: Kiddies and Kitties”

  1. Village Elder says:

    You say, “I’ve often wondered how “doing nothing” to defend a little one might be just as bad as actively harrassing them,” I wish to say that crimes of omission may even be worse!

    Crimes of “commission” – when one hurts another – are well researched. But we still know so very little about crimes of “omission” – when an authority figure doesn’t defend/protect/fight against that which is morally abhorrent for the good of the people in his/her care.

    Crimes of omission convey a general lack of “agency” – the ability to influence the world. As a result, they are deep and difficult to heal …


Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »

Commented - Most Popular Articles