BY NICOLAS FERNANDES
A boy who was nicknamed “Dumbo” by bullies for his ears that stuck out has had them pulled back in a life-changing surgery gifted by a doctor who suffered the same birth defect.
Braidon Fugal, 13, of Roosevelt, Utah, USA, has had protruding ears his whole life, a genetic abnormality caused by the malformation of cartilage during ear development in the womb.
In his case, the left ear started to stick out even further in the first few weeks of his life after being forced to only lay on the left side while connected to tubes that treated his underdeveloped lungs.
He was cruelly teased by his classmates to the point that he thought he’d be better off if he was no longer alive, being called names like “big ears” and “circus freak.”
With the help of his pediatrician, the teen was paired with Dr. Steven Mobley, a plastic surgeon who endured similar bullying for his protruding ears as a youngster.
The surgeon, who founded the Mobley Foundation for Charitable Surgery, performed Otoplasty on the boy last month free of charge.
During the ‘ear-pinning’ procedure, the doctor reshaped the folds and curves of Braidon’s ears and brought them closer to his scalp in just two hours.
The teen and his mum are confident that he will no longer be bullied when he returns to school next month.
Braidon said: “I’m really happy about how they look. I feel like a normal kid.
“I think this will stop the other kids from bullying me over my ears.
“I always tried to ignore the bullying, but there were times that it bothered me so much that I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore.”
Mum Melissa Gerard, 36, said: “It was really hard for him being different than everyone else and the kids in school always made sure they pointed it out and teased him.
“They called him all sorts of names and pulled their ears out to mock him.
“I think it has helped his self esteem. He has been more hyper and outgoing ever since. He’s acting like a different person.
“When the doctors asked him what he thought after the surgery, he told them he finally looked normal.”
Bullied since age five, his mum spent years nagging doctors about what could be done to fix her son’s abnormality.
The only affordable treatment they offered was a cotton headband that he wore every day, which brought no results.
Melissa, a business owner, said: “The headband didn’t do anything, so when I heard that he could get this surgery for free, I was very excited.
“I was really curious about it from the beginning and couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out.”
As someone who was bullied for the exact same reason as Braidon, performing the surgery was a rewarding experience for Dr. Steven.
The surgeon says the procedure makes it possible for those with protruding ears to feel like everyone else, but emphasizes that it is not for everyone.
He said: “When I do these, it fulfills a lifelong dream to help kids whose loving families have decided that it is best for their child, but who otherwise could not afford it.
“Whether or not to have ear pinning is a very personal choice. In my case, I was teased throughout high school and simply wanted to have a cool military buzz haircut without having my large ears stick out.
“Most patients do it because they want to blend in and be noticed for their personality rather than their large ears.”