When Conor Salas was just a year old, his mother, Patricia, noticed an oozing pore on his nose that later sprouted two small hairs. He was diagnosed with a nasal dermoid, a rare benign tumor, which was removed surgically.
But by the time he was 4, Mrs. Salas shared concerns with her husband, Paul, that Conor’s nose appeared somewhat crooked: the dermoid had returned, and this time it was growing beneath the nasal bones. He would need a fairly extensive surgery to remove the dermoid, as well as a rebuilding of the nasal bones, which had been forced apart by the tumor.
Conor’s team of pediatric otolaryngologists referred them to Dr. Samuel Rhee, and the team at the Pediatric Craniofacial Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Conor would require a bicoronal incision, from ear to ear, across the top of his head.
During the nearly eight-hour procedure in March 2009, otolaryngologists Drs. Max April and Vikash Modi removed the tumor. Then Dr. Rhee rebuilt Conor’s nasal bones, using thin bone grafts from the skull. Biocompatible calcium phosphate cement was used to replace the skull bone donor site and smooth any gaps. Finally, a layer of processed tissue was placed on top of everything to match the contours of Conor’s forehead and nasal bridge.
“As a parent, you dread hearing that your child needs something like this, and it was frightening to think about whether he would still look like a little boy,” said Mrs. Salas. “But we had a very good feeling about Dr. Rhee right from the start, and Conor took to the whole team right away.”
Two days after the surgery, he returned to his family’s home in Nesconset, Long Island, to join his four siblings. Today he enjoys life like many other boys his age — riding his scooter or bike and playing with his Transformers.
He is also into superheroes, and for him that was his surgeon. “It was Dr. Rhee who removed the turban-like bandage from Conor’s head, which made him feel better after the surgery,” said Mrs. Sales. “To Conor, Dr. Rhee was ‘The Man!’”