Brave Carla Hughes undergoes major operation to restore smile in spite of missed flight

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The overjoyed parents of a sick Dungannon girl said they were ‘ecstatic’ after vital surgery to restore her smile went well.

Seven year-old Carla Hughes underwent specialist face reanimation surgery on Thursday morning at the Royal Free Hospital, London, to help restore her facial expression after the debilitating disease Muscular Dystrophy wasted away the muscles around her face.

Parents Dessie and Anne Hughes said they were greatly relieved that had all gone well and said they were extremely proud of their little girl and her bravery.

However, at one point, they were fearful that she might miss the major surgery, ruining months of planning.

Due to fly to London on the 8.45am flight on Monday morning, the Hughes family learned that the flight had been cancelled due to technical difficulties. Mr Hughes blasted the airline Aer Lingus for the lack of an apology at the time.

“We had to be at the hospital by 5pm to be admitted onto the ward”, said Dessie. “So we had to make several frantic calls to the NHS emergency line and the hospital.”

At one point a representative of the airline told them that there would be no Aer Lingus flights that day due to technical difficulties.

“We had to wait for three hours until they finally confirmed that they were putting us on the 1.15pm flight. By this stage, we were all very stressed out.”

During the complicated operation, surgeons removed muscles from Carla’s leg and implanted them in her neck.

Doctors say it will take ten to twelve weeks before they will know whether the operation has been successful or not.

A spokesperson for Aer Lingus said: “Aer Lingus made every effort to resolve the technical issue as soon as possible. We did attempt to seek seats with another carrier for the passengers in question, however none were available.

“The family were subsequently accommodated on the next available Aer Lingus flight which was scheduled at 13:15 that day. We understand these situations can be stressful for our guests, especially when travelling for medical reasons, and we sincerely apologise for the delay.”