Preston Tassi, 6, was born with a rare condition that prevented him from ever smiling but, in May he finally flashed a wide grin to his mother for the first time thanks to innovative surgery.
Sarah Tassi had waited for that moment for over five years and when it came, she broke down and cried.
"It was just amazing," she told People magazine this week. "It's the little things you take for granted."
Three days after his birth, Preston Tassi was diagnosed with Moebius syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes facial paralysis and afflicts between two to 20 people out of 1 million, according to the Moebius Syndrome Foundation.
Simple tasks such as eating, speaking properly and even blinking were impossible for him.
"Drinking from a bottle was difficult for him because he couldn't make his mouth come to the bottle," Sarah Tassi told People. "So we figured out a way to hold the bottle with our hands while pushing his cheeks in a little bit to help him eat."
Preston Tassi's parents also had to use eyedrops throughout the day to keep his corneas healthy, according to a GoFundMe page set up in 2015 to raise funds for the surgery.
Then his family learned of a corrective surgery that entails removing nerve muscles from the thigh and inserting them into the cheeks to ease the condition, and they set about trying to raise money.
However, almost exactly a year later, in a bittersweet moment, Preston Tassi underwent the final end of a two-part facial animation surgery at St. Louis Children's Hospital, People reported.
Three months later and he smiled for the first time in his life.
"It was Mother's Day, we were in Kansas City with his cousins," Sarah Tassi recalled, according to People. "There was a birthday party and somebody was like, 'Preston, let me take a picture of ya.' And he turned around and he grinned at them."
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