Plastic surgeon reassembles TV reporter’s lips after an on-air dog bite

Written by Kim Christiansen  Written by Jeffrey Wolf

DENVER – He has seen everything from animal bites to car crashes to self inflicted gunshot wounds. Dr. Raffi Gurunluoglu is the plastic surgeon at Denver Health Medical Center who was working on the morning 9NEWS anchor Kyle Dyer was brought to the emergency room.

Kyle suffered a dog bite live on the air during the Feb. 8 newscast and lost part of her upper lip.

Gurunluoglu, who is better known as Dr. Raffi, quickly assessed her wounds and made a decision.

“Some of the portions of the upper lip were already gone,” he said.

He would take a triangular section out of her lower lip to replace what she lost in her upper lip.

“We didn’t feel we could reattach those things. There were no major blood vessels that we could utilize,” Gurunluoglu said.

After making his incisions, he would leave her lips partially attached to give the blood and tissue time to regenerate.

“One third of the lower lip can be used for other purposes, so in this case, I used it for the reconstruction of the upper lip,” he said. “We got to do this immediately and urgently.”

Two weeks, two surgeries and close to 100 stitches later, Kyle was able to talk again and shared her thoughts with Gary Shapiro.

“I was so lucky that Dr. Raffi was there the day I was there,” she said. “I’m so lucky and it could have been worse.”

The healing process can take months, sometimes up to a year, in part because the scars need to soften up.

“The best physicians are time and nature,” Gurunluoglu said. “The scars get mature and they tend to fade, especially in light skinned individuals like [Kyle]. So I’m positive she’s going to end up looking better down the road than she is right now.”

“Plastic surgery also puts a face back together and that’s what I needed,” Kyle said.

Some of the most complex cases Gurunluoglu’s seen involve young people and gunshot wounds, many self inflicted. Those patients often lose their jaw and lower lips. To recreate the jaw, he has been able to harvest the bone found in the victim’s leg.

“Believe me, I have seen so many other cases, including gunshot wounds and things like that, they were really extreme and complex cases. I can tell you we are able to reconstruct those cases here,” he said.

Gurunluoglu is from Istanbul, Turkey. He came to Colorado six years ago. As a plastic surgeon, he performs elective surgeons as well as reconstructive surgery for cancer patients and trauma patients. He has seen more than his fair share of animal bites and admits he often goes home to his two young daughters and warns them about being careful around animals.

“They say, ‘Daddy, OK, OK, we know you’re going to buy us a cat or a dog or something,” he said.

He says the most rewarding part is when patients like Kyle make a full recovery.

“At the end, when you know that you were successful, then that makes you feel really wonderful and makes you keep going,” Gurunluoglu said.

“It will be a little different looking, but I’ll be smiling again,” Kyle said.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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