Dr. Ananth Murthy, in a miraculous surgical feat, has gifted a pair of new ears to an 8-year-old boy, according to news reports. Elijah Bell, of North Canton, Ohio, is a second-grade student at Frazer Elementary in Canton. He was born with bilateral atresia microtia, a rare birth defect where the outer ears are undeveloped. Over the course of five surgeries in four years, Bell’s ear procedures were completed August 21 by a team led by Dr. Murthy. The surgical feat has been reported across the United States as a “miracle” because of the intricacies involved.
Besides five surgeries to create the ears – which began when Bell was just 4 – Murthy had to use a skin graft from the boy’s thigh to create a gap between his ears and his head. The final surgery was done in July when Murthy gave Bell’s ears detailed “hills and valleys.”
“The body naturally wants to smooth everything out as it heals, so we always have to go back a couple of times to help create the natural curves of an ear,” Murthy said in a statement. “It is an artistic procedure,” the Indian American doctor added.
Searching for a doctor who could help Elijah, Bell turned to Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio. It’s the same facility where Elijah was treated after being born prematurely. There, Elijah and his medical team, led by Indian American surgeon Dr. Ananth Murthy, the director of plastic surgery, started the long process of developing new ears.
Bilateral artesia microtia is a very rare birth defect which affects about 1 in 50,000 people. “By the time you are 6 to 8 years old, your ears are pretty much fully grown. Doing the surgeries at that age allows these kids to start their school careers with normal ears,” Murthy explained.
For Bell, the surgery has helped develop a new confidence in him. “He’s just learning to love himself the way he is,” the boy’s mother Colleen Bell said. Murthy is described by his Akron-based hospital as “our very own ‘Doogie Howser’,” who completed his undergraduate degree at the age of 19 and earned his medical degree by the time he was 22 years old.