ACPA Family Services

Cleft-Craniofacial Community Stories

The Keith Family

My husband and I have two beautiful girls. I could never have asked for anything more. On January 22 1993, my youngest daughter was born: Jenalea Kaitlin Keith. She was born at 3:29 am weighing in at 6 lbs 15 oz. She was born with a unilateral cleft lip. I had never heard of cleft lip before so I was really scared and didn’t know what it meant. I was only 19 years old when I had her, so this was all new to me. When she was born, the nurses took her away from me and I never knew anything was wrong. The nurses said everything will be ok, but the worst thing for me was not knowing what was wrong with my daughter. The hospital where she was delivered had not seen a cleft lip in 15 years, so most of the nurses didn’t know what to say to me as a new mother. They finally told me that she had a cleft lip and her gum line was also affected. I said “What do you mean cleft lip?” and only then did they show me what she looked like. I was devastated. I had never seen a cleft lip before, so I didn’t know what I was in for.

I found out years later that genetics can play a part in cleft lip and palate. We found out that my grandma’s sister was born with a cleft lip. My husband’s aunt was also born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. When we told our doctor this information, he said it was a wonder that our oldest daughter was not born with a cleft lip as well.

Jena had her lip repaired when she was 3 months old. We stayed up at the hospital during her surgery. I can’t remember how long it took but I know that it felt like a lifetime. The doctor came in after her surgery and told us to go into the back room. During the walk back there, you can imagine what was going through our heads. He told us that Jena was fine and the surgery went great. Over the next few years we were back and forth to the hospital.

Jena is now 10 years old. We went back to the hospital a month ago and saw her surgeon. He looked at her and he said that she is amazing. Her scar is very faint. I have taken really good care of her lip from the time she had her surgery and still do today. It is one of my first priorities. Her surgeon recently told us that she has to have a bone graft which will be done in the next couple of months.

Jena is a strong and beautiful little girl. She is really worried about her next surgery. So, her teacher and I have been talking, and we came up with a project for her to do. In fourth grade, the students have to do a big project. We suggested that Jena do her project on her cleft lip. At first, she was opposed to the idea, but now she is excited about it. Jena is going to be teaching the other kids and the teacher about what she will be going through with her cleft surgery over the next couple months. I know she will ace this project and we are very proud of her. Way to go Jena!!!

Last Updated: Jul 24, 2006