Photo one is my first professional picture I ever had done. You can clearly see my unilateral cleft. As an infant, I had feeding issues and wore a dental appliance for much of my life.
I had my lip repaired at 3 months old, and my palate repaired at 14 months old. My palate currently features a remaining anterior fistula, about 2/3 of the way back on my hard palate. (Essentially, this means that there is a hole in the roof of my mouth)
Photo 2 was taken right before I had my palate repaired, I’m about a year old in that photo. You can see how the left side of my nose is a little more flat, but as I grew that became more prominent.
Photo 3 shows me at about 2 and a half. Comparatively, you can see more of a crease on that part of my nose, and the scaring on my lip is starting, because my teeth were coming in, and rubbing against my repaired cleft, creating scar tissue.
Photo 4 shows me at about 3 and a half. (It was the early 90s, don’t judge my outfit!) This photo shows that my outer scar on my lip is almost invisible, but it also shows the crowding of my teeth. As a result of being cleft all the way through, my jaw bone was also clefted and my teeth crowded on either side of that. Inside my lip during this time, I also had a protruding flap of scar tissue.
When I was 10, I had a bone graft in which they took bone marrow from my hip, and injected it into my jaw bone to fuse that together. After that I had braces for 3 years, the results of this can be seen in photo 5.
Photo 6 represents my smile post braces, with wisdom teeth. My wisdom teeth actually grew in impacted and pushed some of my teeth back in. This photo was taken at the end of 9th grade, so I was about 15.
It is one of the last photos that was taken before I had my rhinoplasty three days before junior year of high school. My plastic surgeon reshaped the end of my nose, evened out my nostrils, and removed the protruding flap of scar tissue.
The last photo was taken today. I am 23, and unless you are in the know about cleft palate and cleft lip, you can’t even tell that I was born with any cosmetic defect.
My mother says that in the grand scheme of things, to have a cleft baby, is not the worst thing that can happen. It is repairable, and most kids can lead a full and happy life. She says that it hasn’t always been an easy road, but in the very least, 23 years later I’m happy, healthy and thriving on a path to help other people much like myself.