Nicholas Turner was the recipient of a prosthetic eye that replaced his right eye and surrounding area of his face.
Artificial eye changes image
Ocularists craft a new prosthesis to replace a boy's eye removed in surgery for a tumor
The 12-year-old boy's friends were waiting to see what he looked like when he returned to his Waialua home with a custom-made right eye in what had been a gaping hole.
"All of his friends looked at him and looked at it, but actually they just went out and played, just like kids: 'Oh, that's good. Come on, let's go,'" said Nicholas Dean Turner's mother, Kim, describing their reaction.
Dean, as the youth is called, received a prosthetic eye through the skills of board-certified ocularists Doss Tannehill of Custom Artificial Eyes in Kaimuki and Kevin Schou, president of Ocular Concepts in Lake Oswego, Ore.
Schou worked with Tannehill "almost nonstop" for three days to create an artificial eye for Dean before school opened July 29.
Tannehill created a blue-green iris to match Dean's left eye, and Shou did the painstaking, time-consuming reconstruction of the boy's eye socket and eyelids, complete with eyelashes.
Dean was born Feb. 3, 1996, at Kaiser's Moanalua Medical Center with lymphatic hemangioma in his right eye, said his father, Denny. The tumor became apparent when he was about 2 years old as it started to occupy space in the orbit, Turner said.
As the tumor expanded, he said, it became more pronounced and ruptured when his son was 10 years old. Surgery was done in June 2006 to relieve the pressure and prevent the tumor from migrating into the brain cavity, he said.
The boy's eye, eyelid and all tissues in the eye socket were removed, leaving "a pretty large hole," said Turner, who retired on a disability from Hawaiian Airlines.
"He was in pain and happy to have it (the tumor) gone," said Kim Turner, sales representative for Honolulu Soaring. "His headaches went away, and he was back to being a regular kid. He doesn't see himself much different than anybody else."
The family considered an ocular prosthesis, but their insurance does not cover it, Turner said. "Then the angels stepped in."
The plaster cast used in building the prosthesis.
Tannehill and Schou teamed up to donate an ocular prosthesis, which they said would normally cost about $8,000.
They learned of Dean's situation from Dr. Tim McDevitt, an ophthalmologist who lives next to the Turners in Waialua. "Tim said, 'We've got to get this kid some help,'" Tannehill said.
"There is no one in Hawaii that does this particular procedure," McDevitt said, explaining they were making arrangements to send Dean to Oregon when Shou volunteered to fly here.
Schou underwent a two-year program at Stanford to do facial prostheses and is an anaplastologist. He does three or four a year, mostly eyes, he said.
The plaster cast used in building the prosthesis.
McDevitt invited Schou, his wife, Maureen, also a board-certified ocularist, and their two children to stay at his home on the North Shore. Their 13-year-old son, Michael, hung out with Dean while Schou worked in Tannehill's office at 752 17th Ave.
He made a two-piece mold of Dean's eye socket and lids. He said it took most of a day to sculpt the eye and socket, texturing the clay to get skin lines, and adding pigments to the silicone to match the color of his skin.
He had to place the eye "to get the gaze just right," he said. "It's all custom work. You can't pull it out of a drawer."
He actually did the delicate process twice. "I wanted to make it better," he said, explaining the first eyelid was about two millimeters wider than he liked so he resculpted it. The reconstruction of the socket will have to be repeated as it grows with Dean, he said.
Turner lost his eye, eyelids and all tissues in his eye socket following surgery to prevent a tumor from migrating into the brain cavity.
The ocularists bought false eyelashes, and Schou poked individual pieces into the silicone. The prosthesis glues into place, Schou said, explaining Dean can glue it in and wear it whenever he wants to.
"He's really a neat kid, a joy to work with," Tannehill said. "He was motivated and so appreciative," Schou added. "Anything we told him to do, he'd do."
Dean's mother took him to get glasses to protect his good eye and camouflage the edges of the artificial eye.
But an unexpected problem cropped up: With Hawaii's heat and perspiration, the glue is not sticking, Tannehill said, explaining Schou is looking for another adhesive.
Dean is not wearing the artificial eye to school until he is confident it will not fall out, but "it's wonderful work," his mother said. "It's never been done for someone here or a child. It's all a new thing for everybody.
"It's been a real emotional roller coaster for all of us," she said, expressing gratitude to the ocularists for giving Dean a normal appearance. "They're really terrific people.
"Now we can feel he's whole all the way around. People who don't know him won't know what happened to him. He can look at a mirror and wow!"