Rare syndrome affects Wichita toddler's smile

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) A Wichita mother is determined to give her daughter the best life possible after she was born with a rare condition called Moebius Syndrome.

(Source: Lindsay Sallee Photography)

Three-year-old Ava struggles with her speech and has low muscle tone. She also isn't able to smile. Now, her family is working to change that.

Ava's mom says she has no problem reading her daughter's emotions even without the ability to smile or frown, but she knows the rest of the world may see her differently.

Ava is on track cognitively, but the disease impacts her muscle tone and cranial nerves. That means she isn't able to smile and requires a feeding tube.

Ava's family started a GoFundMe back in 2015 to raise money for a procedure that could change the little girl's life.

The surgery involves moving a muscle from one part of Ava's body to her face.

Her mom, Rachel, says the plan is to move forward with the surgery after Ava turns 4, but she says the decision will come down to making sure it's what Ava wants.

"I think about it a lot, just kind of seeing what she would look like and how that would change things, and you almost feel superficial because it's just a smile but then also, it's just a smile," says Rachel.

She says the surgery would also improve Ava's ability to eat and her speech. The GoFundMe has raised more than $5,000. Their goal is to raise $10,000.