A Winnipeg senior citizen who had his nose removed during surgery to take out a cancerous tumour claims he's been let down by the health-care system.

Edward Allen, 73, had his nose removed more than five years ago. He said doctors reassured him and his family that medical professionals would put his face back together again -- but never did.

In his prime, Allen worked in trucking and construction. The grandfather never imagined he'd spend retirement as a recluse.

"I feel depressed,” said Allen from his St. James home. “I can't drive. Can't do this. Can't do that. Everything’s gone.”

A smoker his entire life, Allen now ages in agony. Reconstructive nose surgery has not been planned. He has not been fitted for a prosthetic nose and can’t wear dentures.

"I feel terrible,” he said. “Why walk around with a big hole in your face until the day you die?"

Allen said after the surgery removing his nose, doctors assured him he would be, "'pretty well back to normal’ in about a year. Now do I look normal?” asked Allen. Today, he has a mask to cover his face, and uses gauze to fill the cavity left from the surgery.

Smoking complications

Dr. Edward Buchel is head of plastics at Health Sciences Centre.

He said it's normal for doctors to reassure patients before the surgery, and doctors will do everything they can to reconstruct a nose.

"Five and a half years is definitely longer than anybody would want to live like this, “ he said. Two years is completely in the realm, but five years is pushing a long time."

Buchel said as few as five Manitobans a year undergo a similar procedure. He said reconstruction may become impossible if the patient continues to smoke due to complications that poses.

Natascha Wodtke met Allen two years ago. She said Allen has been let down by the health-care system.

She couldn't come to grips with the length of time Allen has been living without a nose. She began taking him to medical appointments, trying to find answers, a way to make him more comfortable, but with no luck.

“I think in this case the medical system has failed him,” she said. “His is quality of life has deteriorated completely, and it's getting worse.”

Wodtke has been frustrated she can’t find a professional to help him receive dentures, so he can eat properly. “It seems no one wants to work with him and try everything they can to make him as normal as possible. That's what's very disappointing”.

Allen said he quit smoking at one point and is down to two cigarettes a day. Meanwhile, hope to have the reconstructive nose surgery is fading.

"Many people feel horrified at the reception and disfigurement that a head and neck cancer leaves them with, but few people are willing to say, 'I don't want to go through that. Just let me die.'"

Other options?

Another option for Allen is to get a silicone nose.

Manitoba patients can be referred to a hospital in Edmonton that makes prosthetics.

According to Natascha Wodtke, doctors aren’t moving forward until Allen quits smoking.

Manitoba Health told CTV procedures can be put on hold based on recommendations from a doctor. For example, a patient could be asked to lose weight on condition for a surgery.

Allen said he has quit smoking at times, and is only smoking two cigarettes a day at this point.

He no longer leaves the house, which makes him agitated, bored and depressed - which results in him smoking.

He said smoking is the only thing that keeps him going.

Allen said he would quit but has been left in limbo for so long he doesn't know if help is coming.

Allen said if he could go back, he’d take his chances with the tumour still inside his face.