My next surgery was probably the biggest and most important of all, the jaw surgery, otherwise known as the Orthognathic Surgery. People with Cleft lip and palate have to undergo this surgery because when you are born with a Cleft, the upper jaw does not grow as fast as it should which causes the upper and lower to not fit correctly. Basically, it results in a major underbite. So the only way to address that is to “break” (cut) the jaw and move it forward. There are many different variations and approaches to this surgery. Sometimes they will have to move the lower jaw back so they don’t have to move the upper jaw as far forward. Other times they will only move the upper jaw, it all depends on the person and their background. But because engaging both jaws makes the recovery and the overall surgery more complex, and my doctors believed we could get the results we needed without moving the lower jaw, we decided to only engage the top jaw. And in my case, that was a very far move for my upper jaw. 15 millimeters to be exact. Think of it this way, you have your jaw in the same place all your life and then out of nowhere, it is moved into a new place, let alone that far. It is very hard to adjust: eating, talking, drinking, anything to do with your mouth, you almost had to learn how to do all of those things again. For example, before the surgery, I had never been able to successfully chew anything with my front teeth because they were never aligned, throughout my entire life. It truly was an amazing feeling to finally do that after 15 years. It isn’t perfect, but living with a Cleft lip and palate all my life has shown me that I will never be “perfect” or “normal” and I am willing to accept that. After this surgery, thought everything had gone as planned in surgery, one of my nostrils collapsed. This was not the case before the surgery. Before this surgery, I could breathe through both of my nostrils very well, and now, it feels like I can only breathe out of one. Which again is a hard thing to deal with because I am very athletic and breathing hard it is sometimes tough. This surgery required an extensive recovery; I was out of school for half of the year and was not allowed to eat hard food for a month. This was the longest and most extensive recovery I have ever had. And during that long period of time, I searched for a place for teens to connect and support each other; not mothers of children with cleft lip and palate, and I did not find one resource. This was probably the most difficult time of my life and not having that resource available to me made it much harder. So instead of getting increasingly lonely, I decided to create CleftProud so no one else had to go through what I went through.
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