Mom is Happy Cleft Lip Care for Baby is Better than She Had

Jul. 13, 2018

At the routine 20 week ultrasound of her pregnancy, Khristeen Sproul found out her son would be born with a cleft lip.

“I immediately felt sad for him,” she said.

Michael Sproul in NICUThat’s because Khris was also born with a cleft lip and palate and remembers all too well being teased a lot in her younger years. And all the surgeries she endured, too.

“But my experience has made me a lot more understanding and a little more aggressive with his care,” she added. “I want to make sure he gets everything he can because things are so different now.”

When she was induced five weeks early because she had preeclampsia, or dangerously high blood pressure, baby Michael spent some time in the NICU at Strong Memorial Hospital.

Michael with the NAM in the NICUThat’s where Dr. Clinton Morrison, director, Plastic Surgery Team for the Cleft and Craniofacial Center at Golisano Children’s Hospital, first saw him and recommended that Michael, who also had a cleft palate, see Dr. Erin Shope, with Eastman Dental, to begin using the NAM, a device that helps close the gap.  She readily agreed.

“As a person who had a cleft lip, I would like to have my baby get the best care,” Khris said. “It wasn’t available when I was born.”

As a baby, Khris spent the majority of her time with her grandmother, who kept a daily journal about her care, which Khris has been able to read and learned a lot about her own cleft care. Today, her grandmother lives close by and loves spending time with Michael.Michael half way through NAM treatment

the NAMThe NAM, which is only available by providers at Eastman Dental and some in New York City, is fitted usually within the first week of birth, and requires weekly visits for three months for adjustments as the gap continues to close.  Many families have traveled up to three hours each way every week to receive treatment from Dr. Shope.

But since Michael was in the NICU, Dr. Shope came to him instead.

“The NICU staff was wonderful to work with,” Dr. Shope said. “While none of the nurses had ever seen or heard of nasoalveolar molding, they were eager to learn and help with the impression for, insertion of, and care of the appliance.”

Dr Yanez with MichaelThe fellow involved with Michael’s care spent time shadowing us and later provided an educational session on NAM for pediatric residents working in the NICU.

“I felt confident in and well supported by Michael’s care team the NICU team,” Dr. Shope added.

The open palate prevents babies from the ability to suck, resulting in not feeding well. But the NAM device covers the gap inside the mouth, and allows babies to drink from a bottle more effectively.

Drs Shope and Yanez with Khris and son Michael “I definitely saw the changes within the first four weeks,” Khris said. When Michael was around six weeks, Dr. Shope added a piece to the NAM to help shape Michael’s nostril.

“It got to the point where he felt uncomfortable without it,” Khris said. “Once it’s in he likes to play with it, even taking it out occasionally. But he definitely eats better with it in.”

“Michael’s cleft started at about 7 mm, and we were able to bring the gum pads to nearly touching each other, about 1.5 mm apart,” Dr. Shope explained. “We were also able to make Rauscher Family Golf Tournamentsignificant improvement in the symmetry of his nose.”

 “I love Dr. Shope,” Khris said. “She is very caring and down to earth.”

Khris, who lives in Canandaigua, NY was able to benefit from gas cards provided by the KMR Memorial Golf Event, which raises money to help families with babies born with cleft lip and palate.  Kory Rauscher’s sister Mandee had a son Nathan who was born with cleft lip and palate, and she traveled to Eastman Dental each week from Waterloo for his NAM adjustments. When Kory tragically passed away in a snowmobile accident, the family wanted to carry on his legacy by helping other families in similar situations.

“Many thanks to the Rauscher family,” Khris said of the support. “What they’re doing makes a very stressful time a little less stressful.

Khris and Michael Day of Lip SurgeryLike most moms in her situation, Khris had to take more time off work than originally expected.  “In some ways I have an advantage because I had cleft lip and palate.  But it’s like my first, because Michael July 2018everything is different, it’s a whole new adventure!”

It wasn’t planned this way, but Michael underwent his first surgery with Dr. Morrison to close his lip during Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness Week in May.  He went home the next day.   

“He is doing great!,” Khris said recently. “He eats like a champ. His palate surgery is slotted for around 10 months old. We are getting excited.”