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The Story of Our Adoption of a Child with a Cleft Palate

By Lois Fraser

My husband and I had spent 4 years working on adopting....some looking for agencies, losing lots of money through a crooked attorney, supposedly losing a referral from our agency... when I noticed in April of 1993 that Vietnam had 4 cleft lip/palate children available for adoption. I was taking a Health and Nutrition class from a Nurse Practitioner so I questioned her on cleft lip and palate. She said if the child was gaining weight to "grab the little girl as fast as you can." We found out talking to Iowa City Otolaryngology Clinic that cleft lip and palates are mainly a cosmetic surgery. The support they gave us was awesome. They even sent us special bottles for Hannah to drink from that would get more fluid down her throat.

On July 5th, we called our agency and said we would take the little cleft girl born in February. By September, Hannah had all her Vietnamese paper work ready to go. We just had to wait for Omaha to get our paperwork together. On Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1993, we were at the Detroit, Michigan airport to meet our new daughter. The very next Wednesday, we were in Iowa City for an evaluation. Hannah's unilateral cleft was completely from the front of her mouth to almost the back of her throat. Two weeks later, Dr. Canady was performing her lip repair. We had three weeks of careful care cleaning her incision. During these three weeks she was in arm restraints, but they did not bother her. She even continued trying to learn to walk with them on.

At 18 months of age, Hannah had her palate surgery repair. She bounced back right away from that. Again, for three weeks she was in arm restraints so she couldn't put her fingers in her mouth. She was also on a liquid diet (blended foods) for those 3 weeks.

There are three main surgeries for a cleft child. The lip repair, the cleft repair and the bone graft. We were suppose to have the bone graft completed on December 15th, but due to a high temp, the surgery was canceled. However, we have found out that it is a 3 hour surgery. They do an incision in her hip bone, slice up the hard bone, and then scoop out bone marrow to place in her tooth socket. So she will end up with two incision sites. The postoperative care will include a liquid diet for two to three weeks and then a soft diet for two more weeks. She will have a special mouth rinse to use. Also, there will be no PE or recess for three months while the new bone is growing.

It is amazing how these children turn out. At the Cleft Clinic we go to twice a year, I do not even notice the children under the age of 4 with scars on their lips like Hannah has. Each year has decreased the typical look a cleft child has. The younger ones look completely normal.

I hope anyone considering adopting will consider a cleft child. The techniques have changed so much in even the past 6 years we have been working with Hannah that it basically cosmetic now. So, for all you who are looking to adopt, don’t overlook these cleft children. They are very special kids and all have a unique personality you can’t find with a “perfect” child!

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