Cassidy Hooper is the Charlotte girl born with no eyes and no nose who doesn't let her differences hold her back in life.
Anchor Molly Grantham has been following Cassidy's story -- and being impressed by this now 17-year-old -- for almost six years.
She has a very exciting update.
Cassidy, a rising high school senior, is almost done with getting a nose.
If you've followed Molly's stories, you know Cassidy has always wanted doctors to build her a nose. But surgically creating a nose is a multi-year, multiple-surgery process. Cassidy's mom compares it to building a house -- before building the actual structure you need to lay the foundation.
For years, as Molly has reported, doctors have been preparing Cassidy's face.
This past June, Cassidy underwent the first of her last three surgeries at Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte. Her parents granted Molly and WBTV exclusive access inside the hospital's pre-op holding room.
While there, Cassidy told us what was about to happen.
"Today I am here to get skin flaps from the right side of my face, to the left," she said. "They're also going to move my eyes closer together."
What was she thinking in these moments before going into surgery?
"I'm not nervous," she said. "I know everything is going to be okay and I know it's going to be awesome when I wake up."
Cassidy's mom, Susan Hooper, explained the procedure with more detailed medical terms.
"He's taking a lot of skin in this surgery," she said. "He's taking it from a section of her forehead and pulling it down and folding it over so it continues to get a blood supply, and then he'll stitch it up and fold it to look like a nose. It'll just be skin. There will be no structure or bone underneath. Not yet. That's the next surgery, next month."
On July 31st, Cassidy is scheduled for the second of these final three surgeries.
In that surgery, Susan says the doctor will take a rib bone from Cassidy's rib cage and attach it to her forehead bone. That will be the new bridge of her nose. Susan says Cassidy's body is less likely to reject her own bones, which is why doctors are finding one within Cassidy's body.
And after that?
"He'll do a final third surgery," says Susan. "He'll just trim everything down and make it match."
Molly met up with Cassidy and her family four weeks after that first surgery. Cassidy couldn't have been in higher spirits.
"I am one step closer to getting a nose like everyone else!" she said proudly.
She said the bandages wrapped around her forehead were a bit painful -- doctors ended up going down to her bone in the forehead to get enough skin to fold into a nose shape. Cassidy also said her new skin-only nose was pretty tender. But overall, she repeatedly proclaimed she was doing great. She even said she had just scored her first job -- she was going to be working at the Library for the Blind in Raleigh. She was most excited at being able to take the Amtrak from Charlotte to Raleigh every week like a real commuter.
"I can't wait," she said. "I've always wanted a real job!"
As for her new almost-complete nose?
"I was actually thinking of what the reaction of everyone would be when that last surgery finished," she said. "And I think everyone's going to be so excited."
"What about you? Will you be excited?"
"Oh YEAH! After I wake up, I'll be like, 'Yeah! We did it! I knew we would!"
Friends of the Hooper family have recently established a website to help with Cassidy's mounting medical bills. Susan says insurance covers 80% of what's "reasonable and customary". The other 20% is left to the Hooper family. To get more information or help, go to www.CassidyHooper.org.
"It's tough," says Susan. "It's extremely expensive. But this is Cassidy's choice. It's what she wants. We think she's perfect the way she is. But if she wants to get a nose, her father and I don't want to say 'No, you can't have one.'"
Cassidy overhears her mom when she says that last line. She cuts in on the conversation.
"It's like I have said before, Mom," she says. "I don't need easy, I just need possible."
Thursday, July 31 2014 11:57 AM EDT2014-07-31 15:57:19 GMT
As the town of Dundee and countless different law enforcement agencies continue in their search for Jennifer Huston, a local PI is weighing in on the case with his own theories.More >
As the town of Dundee and countless different law enforcement agencies continue in their search for Jennifer Huston, a local PI is weighing in on the case with his own theories about what happened to the mother.More >