Kimmie Harris with Dr. Omar Husein
Kimmie Harris checks in with Dr. Omar Husein, who performed 12 hours of facial reconstructive surgery on her after she fell from a fourth-floor balcony. UC Irvine Healthcare

When Kimberly Harris’ parents first saw their daughter lying in a hospital bed, she was covered in blood, breathing through a ventilator, with her beautiful face a tangle of broken bones.

The 14-year-old Newport Harbor High School sophomore had fallen from a four-story balcony. If not for a tree that broke her fall, Kimmie probably would have died. As it was, she fractured her nose and jaw, broke out most of her teeth and lost much blood.

Kimmie was rushed to a Santa Ana hospital, but her parents – a doctor and registered nurse – insisted that their daughter be transferred to UC Irvine Medical Center because of the more advanced care offered there.

The Harrises knew UCI well. Dr. Kenneth Harris earned his bachelor’s degree there. Years later, renowned surgeon Dr. Thomas Ahlering successfully removed Ken’s cancerous prostate at UC Irvine Medical Center, using minimally invasive robotic technology.

“I received first-rate care at UCI,” Kenneth Harris said.

So did his daughter. Upon her arrival, a team of physicians, respiratory therapists and nurses cleaned some of Kimmie’s contaminated wounds and stabilized her. The team, led by Dr. Omar Husein, a 2007-08 Facial Plastic Surgery Fellow, successfully performed 12 hours of reconstructive surgery. Since then, Husein has checked in on Kimmie, encouraging her to stay positive.

“I think of Dr. Husein as my savior,” she said. “He is so kind and really cares.”

UC Irvine’s Center for Cosmetic Facial Surgery is one of only a few programs in the country that trains facial plastic surgeons under the auspices of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship Program. That professionalism, along with the compassion Kimmie experienced at UCI made her a believer.

“I want to go to college in that caring environment,” she said.