Friday, November 19, 1999

Oklahoma: Mycha Herbert still recovering after being attacked by his family's Pit Bull. The dog ripped off his nose, eyelids and mouth

OKLAHOMA -- Mycha Lee Herbert had quite a week.

He went to Chicago. He appeared on the "Oprah Winfrey" show. And he lost his nose.

A lost nose is an occupational hazard for the active, 3-year-old Tulsan. Mycha survived having his face torn off by a dog more than a year ago, but life since then is full of challenges.

Some days, the biggest challenge is keeping track of the metal bars that form the mounting points for his prosthetic nose.

"He lost his nose when he was out riding his bike in the parking lot one evening" across the street from his home, his grandmother Linda Maritano said. "We found it with skid marks on it the next day.

"We're sure glad he wasn't in it."

Mycha's situation isn't funny, but neither is it pathetic to the family that has worked hard to make sure the child grows up as normally as possible.

A slightly battered artificial nose doesn't faze the boy. He has seen worse in his short life.

Mycha barely survived the Sept. 4, 1998, attack by the family dog, a pit bull named Blue. Relatives found Mycha in the back yard of his home with only his eyes and forehead intact on his head.

He had no nose, no mouth and no eyelids.

A miracle carried out by a team of plastic surgeons at Children's Medical Center in Dallas turned the flesh from his legs, forearms and belly into a face.

"It's because of Mycha being who he is that he came through it," Maritano said. "He's remarkable."

Since that first trip to Dallas, surgery has been a regular part of Mycha's life.

Surgeons placed springs in his jaw last week to replace the facial muscles he lost in the dog attack, Maritano said.

Shortly after that surgery, Mycha was off to Chicago for taping of the Oprah show, his grandmother said.

Somewhere in the excitement of the trip and the hustling to get to the taping, Mycha lost part of his nose. The vertical bar, one of two bars that magnetically attach to his skull, was lost.

Without the piece that forms the bridge of his temporary nose, he put on his prosthetic and went off to the taping, Maritano said.

"He lost the inside of his nose. He didn't seem to care," Maritano said. "I wanted to ask him, `Boy, where's the inside of your nose?' "

After the taping, the family was back on the road to Dallas for construction of a new bar. When the Oprah episode aired Monday, the family expected the little boy would be in surgery, Maritano said.

But a late-arriving magnet meant waiting until Tuesday, she said.

Mycha faces a lifetime of surgeries. Doctors expect him to undergo more than 30 major surgeries and many minor operations as he matures.

Eventually, some time around age 14, when his face stops growing, doctors plan to give him a permanent nose. Using a rib and, possibly, skin from his face, they plan to construct a new nose, Maritano said.

Meanwhile, Mycha is busy living the life of a boy. He gets into anything that's open around the house, he rides his bike, and he's busy honing his golf game, Maritano said.

"His daddy takes him out every other day, and he hits a bucket of balls," Maritano said. "The next Tiger - he's a phenom."

He might never rival golfing great Tiger Woods, but don't doubt his will, Maritano said.

"There's no way to undo the damage that was done," she said. "But he doesn't think that he is any different. He thinks he's normal, and that's what he is."

(Amarillo News - November 18, 1999)