Fresno woman who was born with a facial defect no longer hesitant to smile

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) —

We first brought you the story of Ani Kalboune back in May, when she was about to undergo a complex surgery to correct her condition. A Fresno plastic surgeon donated the procedure to Ani to help give her a future, without curious questions from others about her face.

Ani greets her clients with an easy smile now at the Northeast Fresno salon where she helps people look their best.

The 32-year-old wife and mother felt self-conscious about the way she looked, because of the facial defect she was born with. It was a mystery to many doctors throughout her life until earlier this year when she met plastic surgeon, Dr. Kevin Ciresi at Athenix in Fresno, who diagnosed Ani with hemifacial microsomia.

The condition causes the underdevelopment of one side of the face and the ear, and can appear as if the person suffered a stroke or other paralyzing trauma.

Ani had difficult times in school, feeling different from other kids. As an adult, she’s had to answer people’s curious questions. Just two months ago, Ani received the gift of a lifetime.

Dr. Ciresi told Ani he could correct her condition and he donated the $20,000 surgery to her.

Just before the procedure in May, the doctor explained why he offered to fix Ani’s face for free.

“It helps the person feel better about themselves and the way they present themselves to the world.”

He also talked about the outcome he hoped to achieve for her.

“To the casual observer, she shouldn’t be more noticeable than anyone else. That’s my goal.”

The complex surgery involved taking tissue from Ani’s leg to use in her face, creating a sling to support the affected side. The result would be a more symmetrical appearance.

Dr. Ciresi also created the left earlobe where Ani never had one.

“You can’t even tell they’re (her stitches) there. He did an amazing job. I feel like a different woman now.”

Ani was so excited to show her results, she posted before and after pictures.

“I just could look in the mirror and this is what I wanted to see.”

Ani returned to work and her life, the same person she was on the inside but showing more confidence on the outside. Now she has a life-long friend in Dr. Ciresi. What she didn’t expect was to make new friends. Several people reached out to her, sharing their stories of struggle with the same condition.

“I’ve made friendships that people with the same issues as me that have written to me on social media,” said Ani. “This whole experience has humbled me more than anything.”

Ani hopes by continuing to share her story, other people with hemifacial microsomia can find a solution.

“They know there is a surgery that can fix it. I had no idea. At least they know there’s hope, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Ani’s light is her family and the life-changing gift that gave her a way to reflect the joy she feels from the inside, out.

“This was not about vanity whatsoever. This was about– I wanted to have the smile I was meant to have.”

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