After 45 years with facial paralysis, a Kona woman is finally able to smile

After 45 years with facial paralysis a Kona woman is finally able to smile

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - “The smile is the first thing that people normally see,” Lisa Sullenberger said.

But people never saw her smile ― at least not fully smile ― and it’s not because she didn’t want to.

“I couldn’t move the right side of my face, so my smile was very lopsided, and I wasn’t able to show emotion,” she said.

As a child, Lisa was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. It paralyzed her face and affected her appearance through school, marriage and motherhood. But recently, Kaiser Permanente surgeon Prabhat Bhama performed two intricate operations.

“Her smile muscles were gone, so we had to recreate that kind of vector for her,” he said.

Bhama took a muscle from Lisa’s thigh, along with its artery, vein and nerve, and transferred it to her face. In another procedure, he inserted a small weight into her eyelid, so it could close completely.

Both surgeries worked perfectly.

“She’s a very happy person inside,” Bhama said. “For her to be able to express that for the first time, to me it was really meaningful.”

And Lisa’s smile will get more pronounced as she gains muscle control. For the first time in her life, she can smile at her husband and her kids.

“I have to bite down. You can see when I bite down, I get quite a big smile. That’s amazing!” she said.

“It’s something that she’s never really been able to do. Now she really has this, and a beautiful smile at that,” her husband Zon said.

Lisa went 45 years without being able to move the right side of her face, no matter how hard she tried. Now, when she is happy, it shows.

“God is amazing, that he restored my smile! I get up and I can smile today,” she said.

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