County
Shelby County
 
Feature Story
Before Chris and Leigh Ann Hillman adopted their two children, Maggie and Miles, they knew Children’s of Alabama would play an important role in their lives. In fact, they met with doctors at Children’s Adoption Clinic and Cleft and Craniofacial Center well before the children came home. Maggie and Miles, both born in China, would need multiple surgeries – Maggie for a cleft lip and palate and ear tube placement, and Miles for a cleft palate and ear tube placement. Other procedures popped up along the way. “Between them both, we’ve had 13 total surgeries so far,” Leigh Ann said. “We’ve had them all done at Children’s, and they have all gone great.”

While Children’s was the obvious choice for surgery, the Hillmans had several options when it came time for the children to begin outpatient speech therapy. They didn’t consider anywhere else but Children’s despite the convenience of services closer to home in a neighboring county. “We knew we had a choice of where to go for speech therapy,” Leigh Ann said. “There was no pressure put on us at all to stay at Children’s, but we knew we wanted to be here.”

Maggie was the first to begin speech therapy—she came home a few years before Miles—and Leigh Ann knew Children’s was best equipped to help Maggie with her speech needs. “I was so compelled to take Maggie to Children’s because I knew the speech therapists there had so much experience with cleft lip and palate. They had the resources to best help her, too.”

Leigh Ann also appreciated the knowledge among Children’s speech therapists. “They knew what to anticipate and what might be ahead for Maggie, such as additional surgeries and how it would work,” Leigh Ann said. “That in-depth knowledge of what Maggie was going through combined with the experience with children made it the place we knew we needed to be.”

Maggie started weekly speech therapy when she was just 2 years old, working with therapists to learn how to use her mouth muscles to speak correctly. “After Maggie’s first palate surgery, she really couldn’t make many sounds correctly,” Leigh Ann said. “It took a lot of work to help her.”

In addition to teaching Maggie, Children’s speech therapists also educated the Hillmans and shared exercises the family could do at home. “It really meant a lot to us that they took the time to teach us, too,” Leigh Ann said. “Only coming up to Children’s once a week, we needed to work on it at home, so they gave us specific exercises and advice to help us succeed with it from week to week.”

Though Miles’ palate problems and surgical procedures weren’t as severe or extensive as Maggie’s, he also needed speech therapy after surgery. Miles has been in therapy for about a year, with the expectation of maybe just another year of therapy. “Children’s has been and just continues to be amazing,” Leigh Ann said. “You can have a perfect building and perfect equipment, but unless you have the staff that loves kids and wants them to succeed, it doesn’t really matter. Children’s has it all. We feel so blessed to live so close to Children’s. We appreciate all they’ve done for us and will continue to do.”