Austin’s Doctors Said He Wouldn’t Live Past a Year, 52 Surgeries Later He’s Now 14

State   |   Sarah Zagorski   |   Apr 10, 2015   |   5:21PM   |   Denver, CO

In Colorado, Austin Niehus was born with Goldenhar Syndrome, which is a rare genetic condition that causes a craniofacial birth defect of the face and head, usually affecting the eyes, ears, and vertebrae.

His condition was considered so serve that Austin’s doctors said he wouldn’t make it to past first birthday. However, now Austin is 14-years-old and has survived over 50 surgeries, including cleft lip and pallet repair, G-Tube, Tracheotomy, Bone anchored hearing aid, external ear reconstruction, Bone Grafts, Orthodontia, and multiple Mandible Distractions.


In May 2014, his mother started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Austin’s 53rd surgery. On their campaign site she writes, “Austin has grown into a kind, intelligent and gentle young boy even after enduring bullying most of his life. He has a great future in front of him, as well as many more surgeries.

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Austin’s next surgery will be his 53rd. It is a major surgery to repair his open pallet. Insurance won’t cover the plate they will be using to close his pallet. It costs $4,000. We need to raise this amount by June 2015.”


The GoFundMe site also features a five-minute video of Austin sharing his story and asking others to help his mother pay for his next procedure. In the video, the teen uses notecards to communicate because he was born deaf and blind.

Initially, Austin was hesitant to ask for help. He explained, “I was nervous to do this well … because I was bullied so bad and made fun of a lot! So to make this video I guess I am being brave!”

Remarkably, Austin’s mother has raised over a quarter of a million dollars ($285,545) for his surgery. Watch Austin’s moving plea in the video below.