Mary Altaffer  /  AP
Daniel Wachira, 4, was abandoned at birth and left on a trash heap in Nairobi, Kenya, where he was mauled by dogs and nearly killed. He is in the United States for surgery to replace the half of his face that is missing.
updated 6/1/2006 12:24:36 PM ET 2006-06-01T16:24:36

A 4-year-old Kenyan boy who was mauled by dogs after he was abandoned on a trash heap at birth went into surgery Thursday for the first of a series of procedures to reconstruct his face.

Part of the operation will rebuild Daniel Wachira’s jaw with one of his ribs. Doctors also plan to take muscle from Daniel’s shoulder to form a cheek.

“Everything is going as planned so far,” said Sherri Green, spokeswoman for Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. The first surgery was expected to last about 11 hours.

The boy’s legal guardians, Larry and Frances Jones, said they approached the procedure with “underlying apprehension.”

“We want him to look normal, and at the same time, we know that there will be lots and lots of difficult days ahead,” said Larry Jones, 65.

The couple learned about Daniel through the Christian relief organization Feed the Children, which they founded in 1979.

Daniel had been abandoned at birth and left on a trash heap in Nairobi, where dogs nearly mauled him to death before a passer-by spotted the child and took him to a hospital. When he was eight months old, he was moved to a Nairobi orphanage that was run by Feed the Children.

“There has got to be something special about a child that was three minutes from death and a woman just happened along and heard him cry,” Jones said.

The couple took Daniel into their Oklahoma City home two months ago to begin his surgeries.

Jones described Daniel, who speaks English and Swahili, as very friendly and “an extremely sharp kid.”

Plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Boutros and other doctors at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital were donating their services, Green said.

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Thursday’s surgery was to be the first of four major procedures Daniel will need over the next 10 to 12 years to complete his facial reconstruction.

The boy has no jaw or ear on the left side of his face, his “skin is just slick,” and his left eye and the left sides of his nose and mouth sag, Jones said. He said doctors hope to fashion a new ear for the boy out of another rib in about three years.

Doctors have “told him they are going to make his face look better, but he really doesn’t understand what that means,” Jones said.

Daniel will likely be at the hospital for seven to 10 days and then live in Houston through June for follow up visits with doctors.

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