Nine year old Masyn Ortiz was heading to his grandparents on Christmas Eve but, he said he didn’t even need to look under the tree for his present.
“I already got the best gift,” he told The Post from his family’s car. “I got a new ear.”
Ortiz, a fourth-grader from Jackson, NJ, was born without an outer ear on his right side or an ear canal — meaning he can only hear on his left. The technical terms for Masyn’s condition are microtia and atresia.
On Dec. 18, thanks to his surgeon, Dr. Thomas Romo, Lenox Hill Hospital’s director of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive surgery, and the Little Baby Face foundation, which covered the costs, Masyn woke up in the operating room with a new ear — something he’s wished for years.
The operation had been scheduled for March but postponed because of COVID-19 after Masyn had already waited two years.
In an painstaking, intricate process that takes about an hour, Dr. Romo harvested cartilage from Masyn’s ribs and sculpted an ear that he said is indistinguishable from a real one.
Dr. Thomas Romo, Lenox Hill Hospital’s director of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive surgery
Dr. Romo, who has a beard and sounds suspiciously jolly on the phone, admitted he did feel like a certain holiday figure himself when it was all over. Romo has donated his time and skills over the years to help children born with deformities.
“You do have the sense of being Santa, bringing this gift of joy to this wonderful family,” Romo told The Post. “Masyn is the most upbeat, articulate, wonderful boy. He radiates happiness.”
Masyn’s mom, Nicole, 37, a dental assistant and his dad, Daniel, 37, who works in construction, said their son was always level-headed about his condition and never pitied himself. He wore his hair long to hide the problem.
“We never made much of it,” Nicole Ortiz said. “We left it up to him and it didn’t bother him too much at first. If the other kids saw it when he was swimming and said something, he’d just say, ‘Oh that’s my little ear.’ Then two years ago he came to us and said he’d like to fix it. I think he was more grown-up about it than anyone — and he wasn’t scared of the surgery.”
Masyn will undergo a second procedure in about three months time, once his new ear has healed, to be fitted with a state-of-the-art hearing device called a bone-anchored auditory implant. The costs are also covered by the foundation. He will then look, feel and hear like other kids his age.
He will also be able to cut his hair short for the first time.
“This is a lifelong present,” Masyn said. But he also said he wanted everyone to know he’s more than a kid with a new ear.
“I’m a football player, too!” he said.
Additional reporting by Sara Dorn