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8-year-old ‘smile surgery’ patient recovering nearly 1 year after procedure

NORTH BRANFORD — Last summer, Nicholas Grant went under the knife because he didn’t like his reflection. The then 7-year-old was born with congenita...

NORTH BRANFORD -- Last summer, Nicholas Grant went under the knife because he didn't like his reflection.

The then 7-year-old was born with congenital facial paralysis that left the right side of his face paralyzed, making for a lopsided grin.

"I've seen it change when I've been doing my exercises," said Nicholas, who is now about 10 months post-surgery.

His new smile is a work in progress. Every night, he kneads and coaxes his facial muscles.

"I have to do five cheek massages, 10 biggest smiles, 10 smiles with stickers on my cheek," said Nicholas, walking through his physical therapy.

He looks for an expression in the mirror or on a special iPad app.

"It's hard," Nicholas said, but he continues to work to match how he feels on the inside. "I'm very happy that it is starting to work."

"A lot of kids used to make fun of him, I think," said Nicholas's brother, Patrick, 9. But after surgery, things are looking up, according to Patrick. "They say he did a good job and he was tough about it," he said of classmates.

The confidence booster will continue to heal over the next year or so. It'll likely need tweaks, said Nicholas's doctor, Tessa Hadlock of Mass Eye and Ear. The fixes will be comparatively minor, she said.

"All of the big stuff is done and from what I've seen so far, he's on the road to something that's going to be really like a meaningful smile," Dr. Hadlock said.

In the meantime, Nicholas's face continues to get workouts while he plays with Patrick and his neighbors.

And instead of what he told Fox CT in June, pre-surgery -- that he has a 'creepy smile'  -- Nicholas now told us, "I feel like a normal kid."

For more information about facial palsy, click here.

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