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Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Not many families anxiously await the day to take their child to the hospital, but for the Boney family, it was an anticipated and longed-for event. Lindsey and Sara Boney were in the process of adopting their youngest child, Lucy, and they knew the adoption would lead them straight to Children’s of Alabama. “Well before we ever brought Lucy home, I knew in my heart that this is where we were going,” Sara explains. “It was the natural place for us to go, so it was always a part of our plan.”

More specifically, it was part of the family’s plan to visit Children’s Adoption Clinic and Cleft and Craniofacial Center, as the family knew early on that Lucy had been born with cleft lip and palate. Though she had an initial lip repair while still in China, the palate remained unrepaired. When Lucy finally came home in November 2015 at the age of 15 months, the family visited the Adoption Clinic. “They were so helpful in so many areas,” Sara says. “They of course took care of all of the medical things, covering all of the bases that a general pediatrician wouldn’t necessarily be looking for. It was great because so many specialized doctors in different areas rotate through to meet with you. But they go beyond just medical issues and also look at motor skills, attachment, and emotional issues too.”

While the Adoption Clinic team helped the family transition to their new home environment, the Cleft and Craniofacial Center quickly became another significant spot for Lucy. Within the first few months of being home, Lucy was already having her first palate repair surgery with Dr. Grant. “From the first time we saw him, we appreciated how he would walk us through everything,” Sara says. “He would literally draw pictures for us to explain exactly what he wants to do. I always felt heard and cared for in the process. It’s so much more comforting when you have people you trust come alongside you, and that’s what we have had at the Cleft and Craniofacial Center with the doctors, nurses, and the entire team.”

The Hearing and Speech team has also played a prominent role in Lucy’s journey, as she was unable to speak much when she first came home. “Beyond that, it’s hard for cleft kids to make the hard consonant sounds in general,” Sara explains. “She needed a little help, and we found that with the Hearing and Speech team.”

Lucy saw hearing and speech therapists at Children’s on Third, where they worked on specific sounds and word repetition. She also had her second palate surgery during this time, which contributed to a significant improvement with her speech. “When she started, practically every sound was difficult for her, and now she has completely tested out of speech at school,” Sara shares. “She’s doing incredibly well, but it means a lot to us that if she needs anything, we have those contacts and relationships to go right back and get help.”

Lucy has gone on to have more surgeries to repair her cleft lip and palate — specifically a bone graft with Dr. Powell — and there are potentially more surgeries to come in her future. But for now, the family is enjoying the significant progress she has made and that their family is now complete. “Lucy is such a smart, witty, gifted little girl with an incredible story,” Sara says. “It’s a miracle that she was able to come here and for the doctors and nurses at Children’s to play a part in that story. They truly understand the specific needs of cleft children, and they were in tune with Lucy’s needs from the very beginning. We can’t say enough about Children’s for the role they have played in improving her quality of life, and it’s comforting to know that they will continue to play that role any time she needs it.”