Minnesota Children’s Team Works to Treat Cleft Lip and Palate

MINNEAPOLIS– It is a fairly rare disease, but one of the most common that goes unnoticed before birth.

One in 700 babies is born with a cleft lip. A young woman recently completed a 20-year treatment journey.

Ellie Thompson was born in China and raised in Minnetonka.

“My mom adopted me and she put me on her lap and I was laughing and you could see right down to my nasal passage because there was no palate,” Thompson said.

She was always loved, but felt different.

“I remember in kindergarten, the kids, my friends were really curious and said ‘hey why do you have a scar on your lip?'” she said.

A cleft palate is a condition where tissue during pregnancy begins to migrate and tissue movement stops. It is a condition to which Dr. Robert Tibesar has dedicated his life.

His own daughter was born with a cleft lip, and as a new medical student, he decided to dedicate his career to treating it — and he’s doing just that with a cleft lip palate team at Children’s Minnesota.

“I always want to encourage parents if a child has a cleft palate, there is hope,” Tibesar said.

Thompson has just graduated from college in Middlebury, Vermont, and started a new job in finance in Baltimore. Despite her condition, she faces unconditional success.

“It made me more resilient, but it just prepared me for whatever comes next in my life,” Thompson said.

Thompson wants to raise awareness about cleft lips, so more people understand why some people have facial differences. Children’s Minnesota now offers prenatal care for the condition.

Christine E. Phillips