New Pediatric Plastic Surgeon Brings Expertise, Compassion
Through the early ultrasounds, the celebrations with friends, and the Facebook pictures of the baby bump, there’s a quiet worry that runs through the back of every parent’s mind. Weeks go by, and the worry starts to subside — for as milestones are checked off, there’s more reason to believe that everything will be OK; that the child inside is healthy.
After 33 weeks of good news, Erika Winans had started to let her guard down. So when she found out that her daughter was going to be born with a cleft lip and palate, the news was devastating.
“It was just totally unexpected,” Winans said through tears. “It just blindsides you.”
UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester was a 90-minute drive from her home in Andover, Allegany County. Winans made the trip before little Sophia was born, where she met with the hospital’s pediatric plastic surgery specialists, including Melisande McCheyne, P.N.P.
They assured her that while Sophia’s condition was scary, it was something that could be treated — something that ends in a good outcome for many patients.
And soon, there would be a new surgeon in Rochester to help with Sophia’s care.
A native of Louisville, KY, and graduate from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Clinton S. Morrison, M.D., spent his residency in the plastic surgery program at Brown University in Rhode Island.
It was there that he started to realize that pediatric plastic surgery was what he wanted to spend his life doing.
“There’s really no other subspecialty within plastic surgery where you get to follow children throughout their entire childhood,” said Morrison. “You get to treat kids all the way from their first week or two of life, all the way until they’re fully-grown adults.”
After a fellowship at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Morrison came to Rochester, where he was named Plastic Surgery Team Director for the Pediatric Cleft and Craniofacial Anomalies Center at Golisano Children’s Hospital. Here, he leads the multidisciplinary team in their treatment of cleft lip, cleft palate, and other craniofacial anomalies.
“Clinton came with a tremendous academic track record and a sterling reputation as a surgeon,” said Howard N. Langstein, M.D., chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. “We were thrilled with the opportunity to bring him to Rochester.”
Shortly after arriving in August, Morrison was briefed on Sophia Winans’s case. Sophia had a complete left cleft lip and palate, and had been visiting with Erin Shope, D.M.D, where she was using a nasoalveolar molding, or NAM, device. The NAM, a retainer of sorts, aligns the bone and gums and helps to reduce the size of the cleft, which prepares for surgery.
“It’s a condition that looks very severe, but it’s a condition that we know how to treat really well, and kids tend to have really good outcomes,” said Morrison. “So I always try to tell parents that kids like Sophia will need surgery at various times in their life, but that kids with cleft lip and palate grow up to be really normal, smart, fantastic kids, who can be whatever they want when they get older.”
‘You can hardly even tell’
For Winans, the reassurance helped, as did the fact that Sophia was developing wonderfully — eating well and otherwise thriving. With those considerations in mind, her surgery was scheduled for August.
Along the way, Winans said she appreciated Morrison’s direct demeanor surrounding her 4-month-old daughter’s condition.
“He doesn’t try to paint a pretty picture by telling you that everything is going to be OK,” she said. “He tells you the good, he tells you the bad, and he tells you what to expect — it’s cut and dry.”
The surgery lasted the better part of a morning. But after it was over, Winans was stunned the first time she saw her daughter.
“It was amazing. I was so impressed with the outcome — I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to have done it,” said Winans. “And I wasn’t expecting her scar to look as good as it does now. A month later, you can hardly even tell.”
It’s not the end of the road for Sophia yet. When she nears her first birthday, she’ll have a procedure to close her palate. In the meantime, Morrison and the rest of the Golisano Children’s Hospital team will check in on her periodically to make sure she’s continuing to develop normally.
But she’s cleared a major hurdle, and is on her way to recovery. And though it’s been a tough battle so far, Winans said that the experience has given her some perspective on what could have been.
“It wasn’t a severe, life-threatening thing, like open-heart surgery or something. It could have been a lot worse,” said Winans.
“She’ll have a few surgeries, but there is an end in sight.”