Southlake Doc Rebuilds Toddler's Face

Child among five living with rare facial condition

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCDFW.com
    John Tre "JT" Barbour is one of only five people in the world currently living with the rare facial condition called bilateral tessier No. 4 facial cleft.

    A Southlake doctor has given a face to a toddler who was born without one.

    The 14-month-old Texas boy is one of only five people in the world currently living with the rare facial condition called bilateral tessier No. 4 facial cleft.

    Doctor Constructs Face for Boy Born Without One

    [DFW] Doctor Constructs Face for Boy Born Without One
    A Southlake doctor has given a face to a toddler with a rare facial condition.

    "When you look at someone with that severe of a problem, you don't have a lot of chances, so you have to get it right the first time," said Dr. Sacha Obaid, a pediatric craniofacial surgeon in Southlake.

    The cleft, or holes, on both sides of John Tre "JT" Barbour's face are so severe that they extend from his lips, up through his jaw, cheeks and into his eye sockets, blinding him.

    Obaid first saw Barbour in October 2008 at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, where he was transferred after his birth.

    The boy's parents, 22-year-old Katie Barbour and 26-year-old Army veteran John Laura, had to put their trust in a doctor they'd just met.

    "The first thing I told them was, 'It's going to be all right. There's nothing we can't fix here,'" Obaid said.

    "We didn't even know what was wrong with our son to begin with, and for that man to come and tell us both, 'Don't worry, we'll take care of it, he'll be fine.' We were like, 'OK,'" Laura said.

    Three major surgeries from May to October 2009 reconstructed JT's face, giving him eyelids, implants for eyes, cheeks, lips and a nose almost where it should be. Obaid also recreated the roof of JT's mouth, allowing him to eat normally and begin to talk.

    The transformation is amazing.

    "Yeah, he gave him a whole new look," Barbour said. "I didn't think he could put him back together like that, honestly. You don't know what to expect."

    "My goal for JT is that he is able to get out in the world and be like anyone else," Obaid said. "I know he's blind and that will be a bit of a hindrance to him, but I want him to go out and interact with the world and not have anyone look any different at him than they do you or I."

    "It's up to us as adults and as an American society to show this young man that there is something else outside of being judged and looking different," JT's father said. "We shouldn't love him any different because of his situation. I just want the world to embrace him the same way we do. I don't look at him, 'Oh, he has a facial cleft.' I look at him as, 'That's John Tre Barbour, my baby boy, and I'd do anything and everything for him that I can do."

    JT will need more surgeries until at least 18, so his family will move from their home outside Hillsboro to North Texas to be closer to his doctors.