Cassidy Hooper, who was born with no eyes or nose, is just days away from a surgery that will give her a nose.
Cassidy Hooper, 17, of Charlotte, North Carolina, will have an operation that will graft bone or cartilage from another part of her body before stretching skin over the area to create a nose. The final surgery is scheduled for September 18.
The teenage has already gone through two other surgeries this summer that prepared her for the final step, after which she will finally have a nose.
Cassidy Hooper told ABC News she is excited that she will soon be able to breathe and smell through her nose.
“I’ll have a real nose like everyone else’s,” Cassidy Hooper said.
Her father couldn’t be happier.
“It’s been a long process, but the day has finally come,” her father, J. Aaron Cassidy, 48, told ABC.
“Cassidy is certainly excited for this day to be here.”
Cassidy Hooper has had numerous procedures performed since she turned 11-yeard-old, but the courageous girl has kept a positive spirit throughout.
“Things always may be hard,” she told ABC.
“But here’s what I think: I don’t need easy, I just need possible.”
An operation in June moved Cassidy Hooper’s eyes closer together while taking a section of her forehead bone, folding it down and also pulling enough skin downwards to create enough necessary for the bone to be implanted and create a nose at the end of the month.
Her prosthetic eyes, which she’s had since birth, need to be replaced, but they will not happen right away, her mother told ABC.
“Insurance didn’t pay one cent,” Cassidy Hooper’s mother lamented.
“We had already started the process to do her nose, moving her eyes closer together and having her skull reshaped. We were not going to pay for it then have to pay again.”
The prosthetic eyes cost $10,000 per pair, according to ABC.
Cassidy Hooper and her family spoke to a local television station earlier this summer.
Telling WBTV that the surgery has left her in some pain, Cassidy Hooper said that she was looking forward to her years of surgery coming to an end.
“I was actually thinking of what the reaction of everyone would be when that last surgery finished,” she said.
“And I think everyone’s going to be so excited.”
Friends of the Hooper family have recently established a website to help with Cassidy’s mounting medical bills.
Susan Hooper says insurance covers 80% of what’s “reasonable and customary”. The other 20% is left to the Hooper family. To get more information or help, go to www.CassidyHooper.org.
And the good news has left the energetic teen ecstatic because for the first time she will be able to smell and breathe through her own nose.
When Cassidy Hooper was born, her condition left doctors baffled, especially since had no other medical problems and leads a healthy life.
“Her heart and brain are normal,” said her mother, kindergarten teacher, Susan Hooper to ABC News.
“Nothing else is going on with her.”
Cassidy Hooper has been going through skin graft surgeries to adapt her face since she was 11 years old and is pleased to be entering the final straight.
“I’ll have a real nose like everyone else’s,” said Cassidy Hooper of her July surgery.
Her surgeon, Dr. David Matthews has worked for the past five years expanding her face to create a bony opening.
Experts who spoke to ABC News explained how the surgery to replace Cassidy Hooper’s nose will be completed.
“The nose is a little like the ear – what you see isn’t functional,” said Dr. Sherard A. Tatum III, director of facial and reconstructive surgery at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y.
“A lot of people have noses they lost to trauma and cancer and breathe fine and have a sense of smell. The nose is something we expect to see in its conventional place and it’s good to put glasses on, but it’s not 100 percent necessary.”
“The soft tissues that make up the inside and the outside skin and mucus membrane don’t have a lot of strength to stick out of the face like the nose does. You can’t just slap some skin up there and make it look like a nose.”
Cassidy Hooper’s doctors have taken a layered approach – placing the inside membrane first, then using cartilage and bone from her skull create a nose structure and then cover it with skin.
The hardest part for Cassidy Hooper has been overcoming the social difficulties.
Cassidy Hooper has been attending Governor Morehead School, a specialist school for the blind since the fifth grade and deals with taunts from children well.
“Honestly, there’s been a bit of teasing, but not more than any other child on a regular day,” said her mother.