A couple of hours after Georgie was born, mum Kylie was trying to feed her newborn baby girl when she started to turn blue. This is when Kylie and her husband Nathan were told that their daughter was diagnosed with cleft palate.
They had very little idea what this meant at the time or the implications it would have on Georgie’s short-term and long-term future.
Georgie was put into special care for the first three weeks of her life in order to learn how to feed. At this stage, she was unable to breast feed or bottle feed from a regular bottle.
“Initially, Georgie was tube fed until she was strong enough to be able to feed consistently through an artificial teat,” said Kylie.
Georgie was linked in with multiple services at the RCH including a paediatrician, audiology and surgeon Mr David Chong.
“From a surgery perspective, for her type of cleft – which was a cleft of the soft palate only – they usually perform surgery at 10-12 months of age. Until then, it became a matter of Georgie being constantly reviewed up until she was ready for surgery.”
“She also had hearing tests every couple of months as children with cleft palate have a higher incidence of hearing loss. As a result of this, Georgie had some fluid on her ears and the advice was that she would need grommets inserted at the time of her cleft surgery to help drain the fluid.”
Georgie underwent surgery two weeks after her first birthday.
“Surgery was pretty traumatic for both Kylie and me. It was during COVID-19 which made it hard to be in with Georgie all the time. Being back at the RCH was pretty mentally challenging,” said dad, Nathan.
“In Georgie’s case, she was thankfully on the less severe end of the spectrum, so it all went as well as it possibly could. After she came off the anaesthetic, she was feeling pretty sorry for herself, but she has had no problems since.”
Functionally prior to surgery, Georgie had issues with eating and drinking. Sucking is significantly more difficult when a baby is born with a cleft palate.
“When Georgie would drink or eat liquid type foods like soup, it would come out of her nose. She also couldn’t use a straw or a sippy cup as she had no suction ability. Within a couple of weeks after surgery, she learnt how to sip through a straw and food stopped coming out of her nose! To see the change so quickly was amazing. She has come on in leaps and bounds since her surgery which was just over one year ago,” said Kylie.
“Georgie healed pretty quickly after surgery. Her hearing is perfect now, and her speech has been the only thing slow in coming through. She is definitely on the upswing with her words forming a lot better recently. Georgie is really switched on and everything has gone as well as we could have hoped – we are both just very, very happy parents,” said Nathan.
Kylie and Nathan are both extremely appreciative of the care from the staff at the RCH.
“We are very blessed to be here in Melbourne and have access to healthcare that is going to help Georgie for the rest of her life. We feel very lucky for the wonderful people who work at the RCH and are forever grateful,” said Kylie.
“The staff were amazing, and the doctors were absolutely incredible. We couldn’t speak highly enough of David and his team for caring for Georgie. They helped make it a good experience in a challenging time,” said Nathan.
Cleft lip and palate awareness month is about celebrating differences and acknowledging the experiences lived behind each cleft smile.
Learn more about cleft lip and cleft palate.