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It was the day after the 4th of July. And it’s a day the Humphrey family will not soon forget.

Reese Humphrey’s mom, Roxy, remembers the call for help. “His older brother yelled, ‘Mom, get the bandages.’”

She could tell by his tone, something bad had happened.

“We were getting rid of some of the old fireworks that we didn’t use the day before,” explained Reese, 23. “We were launching them over the lake, just having fun and one shot out of the tube and just rolled.”

Nothing happened. A couple of minutes later, Reese went to pick up what he thought was a dud.

“But a dud isn’t always a dud,” Roxy said. “To see what happened to Reese was pretty horrific. And now to see where he is, he is pretty blessed.”

When Reese picked up the firework to throw it into the lake, it went off. He lost part of his middle finger. He had numerous cuts from the shrapnel on his shoulder, chest and the back of his head.

Those scars have healed, but the damage to his hearing lingered.

“There was a lot of ringing. I could tell immediately that everything was quieter,” Reese said.

Reese suffered a perforated eardrum in his right ear. It’s an injury that is repairable. But it’s how his was repaired that is special.

On the cutting edge

Manuela Fina, MD, is an Ear Nose and Throat surgeon and Otologist at HealthPartners and Regions Hospital. She is one of about 200 doctors in the world performing endoscopic ear surgery, which is a new surgical technique that uses a less-invasive approach to surgically repair common ear conditions. By holding instruments in one hand and a high-definition endoscopic camera in the other, Dr. Fina is able to remove cysts in the middle ear, known as cholesteatoma, or treat patients, like Reese, who have a perforated eardrum.

“Endoscopic surgery has been performed for years in other parts of the body, but endoscopic ear surgery is still in its early stages,” Dr. Fina said.

The traditional way to perform a surgery, like the one Reese had, is to make an incision behind the ear. Doctors then use a microscope to see into the ear. By avoiding the incision, pain is reduced and recovery time is shortened. Most importantly the endoscopic technology offers a clearer vision along with improved access to the anatomy of the ear. “I have always been very passionate about my work, but the technology now, I don’t just have to sketch drawings, I can show my patients high-definition pictures from inside of their ear,” Dr. Fina said. “It makes it much easier to explain to the patient about the condition they have.”

Teaching the next generation

Dr. Fina is a leader in her field. She is the only doctor in Minnesota to use this innovative technique as her primary approach to ear surgery. Because of her work and research, she has been invited to speak at conferences in Texas, France and Italy.

“It’s very exciting to be in a group of surgeons that are doing something really new. It is exciting to be doing something where you can see such positive results.”

Dr. Fina believes that the next generation of doctors will be the ones who will fully transition to endoscopic ear surgery.

“Our residents are already well trained in endoscopic surgery for sinus disease. They find the transition to endoscopic ear surgery easy and a natural progression and evolution. They are very enthusiastic about it.”