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At the Bedside: Craniofacial and hand surgeries allow 6-year-old girl to breathe normally, twirl baton on school’s team

Written By: Caitie Barkley, UTHealth Houston | Updated: January 15, 2024
Young girl in red outfit holding a baton.

Today, 6-year-old Kinsley Westbrook is maximizing the use of her left hand as a member of her school's baton-twirling team. (Photo provided by Jenny Westbrook)

Kinsley Westbrook Baby
In January 2017, Kinsley was born with a third nostril as well as an underdeveloped left hand with small, fused fingers. (Photo provided by Jenny Westbrook)

When Kinsley Westbrook was born in January 2017, she not only had a third nostril, but also webbed fingers on her small, underdeveloped left hand. Shortly after her birth in Nacogdoches, Texas, the newborn was transferred to Houston, where she was sent to the NICU.

Matthew R. Greives, MD
Matthew R. Greives, MD

After being discharged from the NICU, Kinsley was placed under the care of Matthew Greives, MD, pediatric plastic surgeon with UTHealth Houston and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Greives explained his care plan for Kinsley, which included regular visits to his clinic at UT Physicians and waiting until she was 1 year old to perform surgery.

Wendy Chen, MD
Wendy Chen, MD

Her first surgery, in 2018, resulted in the closure of her third nostril and the removal of webbing between two of her fingers. In 2020, while Greives and an ENT doctor performed a successful exploratory surgery on the 3-year-old Kinsley to resolve nighttime breathing issues related to her sinus cavity, Greives also operated on her hand, separating more of the muscle and complex webbing and closing it with a skin graft. Then, in 2022, when Kinsley was 5, Greives’ colleague Wendy Chen, MD, also a pediatric plastic surgeon with UTHealth Houston and Children’s Memorial Hermann, successfully separated the webbing between two more fingers, helping Kinsley maximize use of her hand.

Kinsley Westbrook toys
Kinsley holds the cactus plant in a sloth vase gifted to her by Wendy Chen, MD, after surgery. (Photo provided by Jenny Westbrook)

Shortly before her surgery with Chen, Kinsley gave the doctor a pair of clay earrings she had made with her own hands. When Kinsley returned to clinic after the procedure for her follow-up, Chen gifted her a cactus plant in a sloth vase. Coincidentally, Kinsley had brought her sloth stuffed toy to the clinic that day. It’s one of Chen’s fondest memories as a surgeon.

Following nearly seven years of clinical care and three surgeries, Kinsley is now on her elementary school’s baton twirling team.

“She has fantastic function in her hand. She has great grip strength and can twirl both right and left handed,” said her mom, Jenny. “After Kinsley was born, all that doctors could see was what could possibly go wrong. But we didn’t think of it that way, and thankfully, neither did Dr. Greives. That was so comforting.”

At the Bedside is a series of patient stories with UTHealth Houston physicians and staff.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.