Doctor organizes effort to give local man a new face
Thirty-year-old restaurant worker Jeremy Young is still searching for his first true love. Finding Miss Right is never easy, of course. But for Young it has been especially difficult: he was born different.
Young has Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes facial deformities including sunken cheekbones, down-slanting eyes, malformed ears and a receding chin.
Like most people with Treacher Collins, though, he has otherwise developed normally and has normal intelligence. He is a quiet, polite young man who enjoys reading and writing science fiction, working out at the gym and hanging out with friends from church.
“You learn how to adapt,” Young said. “There’s a lot of teasing with younger kids. And a lot of grown-ups treat you a little differently.”
As if being born with a disfiguring condition wasn’t enough, Young suffered severe burns to 60 percent of his body as a toddler when he tipped over a fryer full of hot grease. So, in addition to surgeries related to his Treacher Collins, he had to undergo numerous skin grafts. He had so many surgeries as a child, his mother lost count.
And Young’s stepfather was in the military, so his family relocated often. As a child he lived in Wisconsin, Florida, California and Germany. This complicated his medical treatments.
“The military has some good doctors,” Young’s mother, Karen Allen, said. “But by the time they’d get it together, we would have to move again.”
“I saw a lot of doctors,” Young said. “I always felt like I had to put my life on hold. About 10 years ago, I gave up hope.”
Young thought nothing more could be done for him. He resigned himself to being different. That was until this past holiday season, when his life was forever changed.
“He’s such a nice guy, you just want to help him,” said Dr. Brendan Johnson, an oral surgeon at Nevada Oral and Facial Surgery.
Johnson recruited an entire team of doctors — including a dentist, orthodontist and plastic surgeon — to reconstruct Young’s mouth and face in a real-life “extreme makeover.”
Young’s mother had been a patient of Johnson’s. During one of her visits, she told the doctor about her son and his condition.
“He said he’d like to meet (Jeremy),” she said.
“He was operated on several times in the past,” Johnson said. “They did the best they could without modern techniques and training. It was a reasonable result.”
But Johnson knew he could do better. Unfortunately, Young had no medical insurance and no other means to pay for more expensive surgeries. So Johnson called on his colleagues and Mountain View Hospital in northwest Las Vegas to donate their services.
“It was a long road,” Johnson said, “because the plates and screws used in the surgery are extremely expensive. We contacted the suppliers and they donated the equipment. Mountain View Hospital donated the operating room and the 23-hour stay. Then we contacted anybody and everybody who could donate whatever aspect of the operation was needed. We all formulated a plan of what each of us would do.”
So Young underwent one more surgery on Dec. 20.
“We basically moved the bones of his face forward,” Johnson said. “We did cheek implants, and the plastic surgeon did some work on his nose. We gave him eyebrow grafts because he had only a half an eyebrow on each brow.”
The surgery lasted about 10 hours. Young received an estimated $100,000 of free medical care.
“Dr. Johnson gave me hope,” he said. “The doctors, the staff and the hospital are great. I owe them a lot and then some. Plus interest. They’re phenomenal. I can’t put it into words.”
“I’m just so grateful,” Allen said. “God answered one of my prayers.”
Allen has been praying for the kind of help Johnson was able to arrange for