Our son, Quinn Thomas, was born on June 30, 2004. I’ll never forget the look on my obstetrician’s face when he saw Quinn…as long as I live I may never shake that image. He said “Judee—he’s okay—but he has a cleft lip and palate”. My first thought was “what else was wrong with him — was there more?” Not knowing much if anything about clefts, I naively asked my OB, “Does he have Downs Syndrome?” I even asked my sister to go over and check that he had eyes. At that moment, I was preparing myself for the worst. Our daughter, Colleen, had been born 2 ½ years before, in perfect health—I had no reason to think this would be any different.
Once Quinn was checked out, and reality started to set in, we immersed ourselves in web research and began our quest to find him the best care. It was a rough first few weeks. Quinn failed all three newborn hearing screenings, and I spent a lot of hours praying that he was not deaf. He had a tough enough road ahead of him—I didn’t want him to have another disability to deal with. As we settled into our new life as a family of four, with the encouragement of our family and friends, along with a little knowledge about what was happening, things started to look up. Quinn was healthy and so beautiful. Crazy lip or not—he was a gorgeous kid. Tom and I went from thinking “why him—why us?” to realizing what an honor it was to have been trusted with him. God must think a lot of us to have sent Quinn to our family—he knew we would do right by him.
Within two weeks of his birth, we met the coordinator of the cleft team that would be the team we would choose to care for our son. However, at this point we were still uncertain about which team to use—we were lucky to have four teams to choose from that were in our area. The new craniofacial surgeon was due to start in August, but would be in town for a day, and wanted to meet us. I liked him immediately. Not only was he friendly and intelligent, but he had been born with a cleft! He knew exactly what we were afraid of—he’d been through it himself. After explaining his approach to us, we left the hospital that day knowing that we were home, and Quinn was going to be okay.
With our permission, his surgeon used a new procedure to repair the cleft. Our son was the first in the world to take part in such a new concept for cleft repair. We were thrilled to be able to contribute to research that could potentially affect the lives of thousands of children and give a better result. The procedure was done in November of 2004 and we have been very pleased with the results thus far.
While all the groundbreaking new technology going on inside his mouth was exciting, nothing prepared us for how good his surgeon made Quinn look on the outside. Six hours of surgery later, our already beautiful boy had an amazing new smile. He also had a hearing test (ABR) while under anesthesia that detected a very mild hearing loss—something his ENT physician thought tubes would fix.
In March of 2005, Quinn had his palate repaired—he now has a beautiful “roof” to his mouth to go with his stunning smile. Within a month, he had enough suction to use a normal bottle, and now uses any kind of sippy cup he can get his hands on. At our May cleft team appointment, audiology tested him again, and his hearing is much improved.
If you are a new parent of a baby with a cleft, it’s going to be okay—YOU CAN DO THIS!! It all seems so overwhelming right now—we know how you feel. It is the most amazing and rewarding experience we’ve ever undergone. If we had it do it all over again, would we prefer he’d been born without any problems?? Sure.
But we have learned so much about something that a year ago, wasn’t even in our vocabulary. This has been a long journey in a short amount of time. And to think we may have helped someone along the way, makes it all worthwhile.
Tom & Judee Sliment
Last Updated: Jul 24, 2006