Hundreds of children across the mountain communities headed back to school last Aug. 11, but for one Coarsegold Elementary student the first day of school held special significance. Hannah Lockwood, 6, of Coarsegold was able to physically smile at her friends and teachers for the very first time as she began the first grade.
Hannah was born with Mobius Syndrome, a rare condition that resulted in her inability to smile, blink, move her eyes laterally or make any facial expressions. She dreamed of being able to smile “up” like her parents but raising the $36,000 needed for the surgery, before Hannah started first grade, seemed unlikely for the Lockwood family.
That was until Hannah’s former preschool teacher, Karin Sayre, stepped in and launched a fundraising campaign that would eventually raise $45,450 over the course of four months. The funds covered the surgery, recovery, medication, and travel expenses for Hannah and her parents, Sarah and Kevin Lockwood.
On July 25, Dr. Andre Panossian, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, began the 10-hour surgery to attach the temporalis muscles (one of the muscles used in biting and chewing) to the corners of Hannah’s mouth. After several weeks of recovery, Sarah is pleased with the results she is seeing now.
“She came out of surgery with a smile but as the swelling has gone down the muscles have relaxed,” Sarah said. “We will have to wait six months to a year to decide if a revision surgery is necessary because the muscles and scar tissue can take that long to loosen up and function properly. But we have already seen a bit of movement on both sides of her mouth.”
Hannah will now begin intensive therapy with a speech therapist and a daily home program to learn how to control her smile. Since Hannah was able to get the surgery at such a young age, her brain will be able to relearn how to use the new muscles to achieve a smile without even having to think about it.
Just a few hours after the surgery Hannah caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Although she was quite swollen and covered in bandages she was encouraged by the results. She told her mom, “I have my smile.”
As the weeks of recovery have gone by she is still happy with the outcome. “It looks kinda different than (my mom’s) smile, but I like it.”
Leilani Cummings, a close friend of the Lockwood family, was fortunate enough to get to play with Hannah the day after she arrived home from her surgery.
“Anyone who knew Hannah before her surgery knew when she was smiling - so to see her with a physical smile was like seeing a rainbow that we knew was there, but hadn’t fully seen yet,” Cummings said. “Now, the hundreds of people across the community who have donated, followed and prayed for Hannah are finally getting to see the smile that Hannah dreamed she would be able to share with us.”