When Ashley Anderson was 20 weeks pregnant, she had an ultrasound which showed the baby boy was growing and doing well. He also showed that he had a unilateral cleft lip and palate.
Ashley was surprised, “but not totally surprised,” she said. Her husband, David, was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, and although cleft palate is not considered genetic, it sometimes shows up in the next generation.
A cleft affects the upper hard and soft tissues of the palate, nose, nasal passages, septum, and ears. Slit babies can’t create suction, so they need special bottles, Ashley said.
“The palace is open, so [the baby] has no pressure,” she added. “Most split babies also have ear problems. Eustachian tubes are affected, so [doctors] put on a tube to release the pressure.
Although David’s father is a doctor, during his years of surgery – 32 between the ages of 3 months and 18 – it was the care he received from nurses that inspired him to enter school nurses after college.
While working with a patient in the burns and trauma intensive care unit of a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, David met Ashley. They got married and moved to Jackson, Tennessee, to work at the local hospital there, and David got certified as a nurse anesthetist.
Using their own experiences and the couple’s career in the medical field, they were able to put together a team of doctors and therapists to help their baby soon after birth.
“We knew the people we needed to see who could work with us,” Ashley said. “The team needs to communicate with each other and with us.”
During Ashley’s 24th week of pregnancy, the couple met with the cranial team at Vanderbilt University Medical Center Children’s Hospital and decided to move from Jackson to Franklin to be closer to them.
The day after Judah was born in 2019, Dr. Michael Golinko assessed him, and after a week Judah was fitted with a NAM device to close the 14 millimeter gap. Every week it was adjusted by a millimeter.
“When the gap was less than 1 millimeter, Judah could have her first surgery,” Ashley said.
Judah was fitted with a nose piece glued to his lip to bring the lip closer together and reshape his nose. Before she was 4 months old, her lip and nose were where they needed to be for her first surgery, which closed the lip and nose area.
Around his fifth or sixth month, Judah began eating and drinking therapies, and after 2 years, continued changes to his palate and gums meant the addition of talk therapy to help him cope. adapt.
As a child, David struggled with the letters S, R and T. An underbite and ear problems prevented him from hearing certain letters properly.
“Without the palate, you don’t know where the tongue is supposed to be,” he said. “I made a speech [therapy] up to college. »
At 11 months, Judah underwent another surgery to close the hard and soft palate, put tubes in his ears and do revisions to his lips and gums. He also had a tooth removed from his nose.
“A lot of [cleft] babies have extra teeth,” David said. “I had four or five. I wore braces from 6 or 7 years old until high school.
After this operation Judah learned to suck and his world began to change.
“Before the operation, we had to teach him to drink from a cup,” Ashley said. “Every six months, Judah has a medical checkup to make sure he’s where he’s supposed to be.”
Judah’s next surgery will be a bone graft when he is 7 or 8 years old. In the meantime, the active, happy, well-adjusted, affectionate, friendly and curious 3-year-old who loves dinosaurs and performs in his solo band is growing up fast. He continues speech therapy and entertains his family, which now includes his little brother, Elijah.
Recently, during Nashville Sounds’ Smile Power Sunday at First Horizon Park, the Andersons told their story after Delta Dental of Tennessee’s charitable arm, the Smile 180 Foundation, pledged $1.075 million to the Cleft and Craniofacial from Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital in Vanderbilt. The funds will support the hospital’s expansion of the scope of the Cleft and Craniofacial program for children with facial differences and their families. Like Judah, they require years of care from an integrated team of specialists.