Mary Altaffer  /  AP
Before surgery, Daniel Wachira, 4, had no left ear and was missing portions of his lips and left cheek. The first operation has already made a noticeable difference to the boy’s nose, lip and eye, the boy's guardian says.
updated 6/2/2006 9:04:14 AM ET 2006-06-02T13:04:14

The first surgery in what could be a 10-year process to reconstruct the face of a 4-year-old Kenyan boy mauled by dogs appeared to be successful, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Doctors completed the 11½-hour surgery on Daniel Wachira late Thursday without encountering any unexpected issues, said Sherri Green, spokeswoman for Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

“It couldn’t have gone better,” said Larry Jones, who with his wife, Frances, is Daniel’s legal guardian. “We’re both extremely thrilled and thankful.”

Daniel was 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.

The Joneses, of Oklahoma City, learned about Daniel through the Christian relief organization Feed the Children, which they founded in 1979. The organization runs an orphanage in Nairobi where the disfigured boy was taken when he was 8 months old.

Green said the marathon surgery included inserting pins into Daniel’s jawbone and removing scar tissue from his face and replacing it with skin from his back.

Jones said doctors showed him video of their work to replace Daniel’s cheek and the skin on the left side of his face, where the most damage occurred. The surgery had already made a noticeable difference to the boy’s nose, lip and eye, he said.

“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 Jones, 65.

The couple took Daniel into their home two months ago to begin his surgeries. Thursday’s surgery is first of four major procedures Daniel will likely need over the next 10 to 12 years to complete his facial reconstruction.

'An extremely sharp kid'
The boy has no left ear, is missing portions of his lips and left cheek, and his left eye and the left sides of his nose and mouth sag, Jones said.

Plastic surgeons Sean Boutros and Michael J. Miller and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital are donating their services, Green said.

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

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.

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

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