CANTON, Ohio -- The first day of school for students in Stark County, Ohio was about showing off new clothes and telling stories about their summer. But, for 8-year-old Eli Bell it was about showing off something else: his ears.
"He had very little like…little nubs of cartilage," explained his dad, Aaron.
He said Eli was born without ears. The condition is called Bilateral Microtia.
"It caught us completely off guard. We didn't have any clue that it was going to happen," he said.
Aaron and his wife, Colleen, knew Eli had to get reconstructive surgery, but weren't sure about where to take him. That all changed after they met Dr. Ananth Murthy. He's a Pediatric Plastic Surgeon at Akron Children's Hospital.
"When Eli first came to me, my main concern was, is there anything else going on because with these small ears, it can mean it's a part of a syndrome, but it turns out he's totally fine otherwise," said Dr. Annath Murthy.
After that, Dr. Murthy got to work. He created two ears using Eli's rib cartilage and a skin graft. The entire process took about four years.
"Technically it's very difficult, but it's also very artistic. We have a lot of like...almost like an exact set in the operating room; we use different gouges and chisels," he said.
Fast forward to now and Eli is all done with surgery. He said he couldn't be happier with how they look.
"I'm thankful that I have these ears...I'm special," he said.