A La Grande girl who was born with rare facial birth defects got a new lease on life after corrective surgery in 1964, according to an Associated Press story that was printed in the July 21 East Oregonian. Fifteen-year-old Ida Hayes was born with her eyes twice as far apart as normal, a protruding jaw and a malformed nose. For years her parents were told there was no hope for corrective surgery, and Ida learned to live with her deformities, and become accepted and a leader in school and church activities.
But doctors didn’t give up on giving Ida a chance for a normal life. Eventually New York University Hospital agreed to do the surgery and a team of surgeons led by Dr. John Converse, the director of the Institute for Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, provided their expertise for no charge. The citizens of La Grande also emptied their pockets and poured out their support, raising more than $10,000 toward expenses for Ida and her family.
Dr. Converse said it was one of the most extensive cases of eye correction his team had ever undertaken. The procedure involved, among other things, lifting up and repositioning her brain, cutting out part of the center of her face and moving the orbits (the space in the skull where the eyes are positioned) closer together. Bone grafts from her hip were used to fill the spaces.
The surgical team’s biggest fear was the possibility that Ida’s optic nerves would be damaged, but doctors at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center reported she had 20-30 vision in one eye and 20-40 vision in the other following the surgery — good enough to read and even drive a car.
Ida would have to undergo more surgery in the following years, but doctors reported she was able to use both eyes at the same time, and have depth perception, for the first time in her life.