My name is Ingrid Solleder (Marie) and I was born on September 28, 1960. My story is unique because I was born at 4 pounds with a cleft lip and cleft palate.
When I was four months old, my first surgery was on my cleft lip. Then the cleft palate surgery followed 2 years later. These two major surgeries were a blessing to my parents and I because the wonderful surgeon I had was very experienced in this field.
In my elementary years I felt different from others and classmates mocked me. I was called names in school. But, I found a special friend who accepted me for who I was. By this time, the surgeries on my lip and palate were completed. The only surgery that had to be done was a pharynegeal flap at age 12. This was created so that my speech would improve. My speech teacher was impressed with the completed surgeries and so was I.
My parents were told when I was a child that I would be mentally slower than others my age, yet as I grew into my adolescence, my schooling was normal, and I grew with a fine education. I completed school through my senior year of high school and even went on to college. Now, I work for a major health insurance company and have since 1989.
I have had much dental work on my upper jaw. This dental work included braces with a special apparatus that brought my jaw forward. Then a maxillofacial physician created a bridge for me that included the four major teeth that I was missing from birth. He was able to save my upper teeth. Then later on, I had an obturator connected to my bridge in order to help my speech — I had nasality that was produced by a fistula in my palate. This hole was repaired in 1990. My nose was rebuilt that same year on the same day as this surgery by grafting a bone from my right hip.
All the surgeries I have had in my life have really been a benefit to me because of my knowledgeable surgeons.
My feelings going through all of this, my surgeries, the self-esteem issues, the ridicule, have made me want to fight back. I am just as normal as the next person even though I had some help along the way. I had many ups and downs where I was ready to give up. But, I now realize there are others worse off than me. These experiences have made me a stronger person because I have shown others and myself that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.
People saying things like “you cannot do it” have made me strive in order to succeed. And I have! I SURVIVED!!
Having a cleft lip and cleft palate gave me some self-esteem issues in the past. But the knowledge and therapy I have received has made me feel better and made me realize that I am just as normal as the next person.
So ends my story – I am glad to be who I am and have the life I have today.
Ingrid M. Solleder (Marie)
Buffalo, New York
An update as of July 2012:
I lost both my parents and my godmother since writing my story in September of 2007. I am living on my own in an apartment in Buffalo with my two cats and we are all doing fine. This is proof that I CAN do it – even on my own!
Last Updated: Jul 16, 2012