A US Navy Corpsman from Georgia whose teeth and jaw were decimated by a sniper’s bullet in Iraq is learning to smile again, thanks to some help from a plastic surgeon.
Shot on Christmas day of 2006 while on guard duty with US Marines, Dusty Kirby’s entire face was destroyed beyond recognition in the incident.
“It took a few teeth out on my left side and then (traveled) about midway through my tongue, taking about a third of that with it,” Kirby told Fox5 Atlanta. “…About 13 centimeters of my jaw before it blew out.”
After about thirty surgeries, the military left him with two teeth for chewing, a deformed jaw and constant pain.
“That went on until I got out in 2012,” Kirby said. “Then in 2012, I just kind of got left with what I had going on.”
Kirby’s mother Gail said her son was left in constant pain.
“Nobody could think of anything else to do,” Kirby said. “Eating, talking, just breathing sometimes, everything was made just that much more difficult. You accept it. And you think, ‘that’s just the way it’s going to be.’ And you’re okay with that.”
However, a few months after being shot, Kirby was invited by a benefit sponsored by the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation in New York, where he met New York plastic surgeon Dr. David Hirsch.
Although it took time, Hirsch eventually managed to assemble a team of surgeons willing to rebuild Kirby’s jaw and teeth- at no cost.
After 10 long years, Kirby would undergo reconstructive surgery he had long waited for. In April of this year, surgeons broke his jaw in several places, realigning it before putting it back together.
“As soon as I woke up, I could tell a difference,” Kirby said. “And it was just fantastic. From the word ‘go.’ With everything being in better alignment, my pain went down, to almost non-existent.”
Shortly after, dental surgeons gave Kirby tooth implants and restored his face.
Now, Kirby can do things that most people take for granted- like eating an apple.
“This wasn’t like apple sauce, this wasn’t like a cut up apple,” Kirby said, smiling from ear to ear like a normal person again. “No, I actually picked it up and took a big old bite out of it, it was awesome!”
While her son still has one more dental implant surgery to go to in January, Gail Kirby said the difference is clearly visible.
“He’s going to be able to best that he can be now, and that’s all I ever really wanted for him,” she said.
Kirby’s final procedure will involve installing permanent implants that look more realistic.
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