Lisa Bernard-Kuhn reports:
It’s usually bad form to talk about body parts when you meet a new face.
But Chris Byrd says he’s now used to starting the conversation about his new nose and the ordeal its been through in the last year.
“When I see people looking at it, I just bring up the story,” says the 28-year-old College Corner resident.Byrd is the thankful recipient of completely reconstructed nose, thanks to UC Health’s Plastic Surgery Center in West Chester Township and the expertise of plastic surgeon Dr. David Hom.
Using a technique that was created several hundreds years B.C. “but then lost to civilization,” Hom crafted a new nose for Byrd, saving him from living out the rest of his life severely disfigured.
“If he didn’t have this repaired, his deformity would have been very significant – and he would have had to use a prosthetic nose attached with an adhesive for the rest of his life,” said Hom, who is also is a professor in the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’s department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery.
Byrd’s nose story began last July.
Following a night out with friends in Oxford, Byrd, 28, was approached by another man – a stranger who he says was intoxicated, calling him names and looking for trouble.
“I was walking away and he tackled me and latched onto my nose,” Byrd said. “Somebody kicked him in the back of the head, and that’s when my nose came off.”
Since the July altercation last summer, Byrd has been through multiple surgeries to repair the damage done.
Initially, Byrd’s original nose was reattached by an emergency room surgeon. But the tissue that had been ripped off in the fight never fully recovered, and an infection set in within days.
That’s when Hom was called.
Quickly, Hom said he was able to discern that the B.C.-era procedure he had used successfully in the past might work for Byrd.
“It’s almost like reconstructing an demolished house,” he says.“You need a corner stone and you need an I-beam to support the structure.”
Using cartilage from Byrd’s ear, Hom reconstructed the middle lining of the nose or the “i-beam,” he said.
For the inner lining of the nose, he used flaps of skin aimed at improve vascular flow and improve healing.
Then to rebuild the outer layer, which is “similar to the roofing of the house” Hom used attached a piece of skin from Byrd’s forehead that included a blood vessel. The skin was flipped 180 degrees and covering the bare cartilage from Byrd’s ear.
The procedure allowed blood to flow more efficiently to the end of the nose, improving chances that the newly attached tissue would successfully adhere to the remaining nose structure, says Hom.
Then, Byrd had to wait six weeks before the tissue connected to his forehead could be detached.
“I mostly walked around with a towel over my head, so I wouldn’t scare my kids,” said Byrd.
Since detaching Byrd’s nose from his forehead in January, Hom said he’s been “very happy with the healing and results.”
“The challenge with this is that, it has to be successful in the (attachment) of the inner lining, the middle lining and outer lining, and that all has to happen separately from each other before you can get a full successful… transformation,” the surgeon says.
Byrd says he’s pleased with the result most days. His sense of smell and taste have not changed – things he could have lost entirely if he would have been forced to use a prosthetic nose.
But Byrd’s nose story isn’t over yet.
Oxford police charged both Byrd and the Nashville, Tennessee man who bit his nose off with disorderly conduct, but no criminal charges were ever filed. Byrd plans to file a lawsuit against the other man, Joseph Flynn, for the trauma he’s been through and the hundreds of thousands’ of dollars in medical bills he’s racked up. Flynn could not be reached for comment.
“My first bill alone was $75,000,” Byrd said.
Since the skin for his new nose came from his forehead, he still has hair that grows at his nose’s tip. Soon, Byrd will be going in for a final round of laser hair removal that should complete his nasal transformation.
With a little sun this summer, he expects his nose’s color will eventually match up with the rest of face.
“It’s still a little gray, because of the hair. Some people think I have frostbite or something,” he said. “It’s been rough, but I just thank God this worked.”