Most of our patients are infants and young children. Occasionally we see someone who has suffered with a cleft deformity for many years. Gift is just such a man. He was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. At some point, he had his bilateral cleft lip repaired, but now he is 27 and still has a very large cleft palate. His speech is very difficult to understand, though he is very intelligent and is deliberate with his speech.
|Wide cleft palate. Note disruption of anterior teeth|
Technically, we knew this would be a very difficult case and might require a second procedure to be done simultaneously–a pharyngeal flap. Our other challenge was that he is an adult. Through some negotiations and creative funding, the CURE hospital (mainly a pediatric hospital) welcomed Gift and we were able to treat this man. What a gift to all of us, not just Gift. When I think of the mother who named her infant child Gift, despite the very obvious congenital deformities that would have been evident at birth, I think of Unconditional Love. It is indeed a gift to all of us to know and experience this type of love.
The surgery was done yesterday and it will be a painful recovery. On rounds, Gift does not complain. He only mentions pain when we ask him. This morning, his mother was with him and got to hear his improved speech! That surely was a gift to her. He will require speech therapy and some hard work on his part to continue to improve his speech, but the anatomy is much improved and we are glad to have helped this man.
Below I’ll include a photo of Levis, a child who we treated last year and repaired his bilateral cleft lip. He returned this year for repair of his bilateral cleft palate. So, he had an identical situation to Gift, but for the fact that he was able to have this surgery at the appropriate age–he is just over a year old now. He will have a much better chance for good speech development and a normal exterior appearance. I hope and pray that some day, all children will have access to the gift of medical care.
|Levis and mom one year ago pre op, he was 1 month old, bilateral cleft lip|
|Levis in OR last year. Has small catheters in his nostrils to keep airway open while healing the first few days after surgery|
|Levis in Dr. Tshoma’s (a superb anesthesiologist) arms immediately post op last year|
|Levis sleeping on ward, post op day one last year|
|Levis 2 days post cleft palate repair this year. Note his well-healed upper lip one year after lip repair. He is now 13 months old.|