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CHoR’s Center for Craniofacial Care is the perfect match for Mi’Angel
January 24, 2022
CHoR’s Center for Craniofacial Care is the perfect match for Mi’Angel

    CHoR’s Center for Craniofacial Care is the perfect match for Mi’Angel

    Mi’Angel was born in August 2016 – a beautiful baby girl, soaking up all the love and snuggles she could get. When she wasn’t latching onto breast or bottle to eat that first day, her mom and medical team grew a bit concerned. The doctor re-examined her and diagnosed her cleft palate, a hole in the roof of her mouth. That’s when she was referred to CHoR.

    Within just a few days, Mi’Angel and her mom, Mona, met with the team in our Center for Craniofacial Care for a multidisciplinary evaluation and to plan for the road ahead.

    Coordinated cleft palate care and successful surgery

    “The biggest concern for babies with cleft palate at first is problems with feeding,” said Ruth Trivelpiece, program coordinator. “We evaluated Mi’Angel’s feeding and gave her a special bottle and nipple. We also set up a schedule to monitor her closely for the first few months to make sure was eating and gaining weight.”

    A cleft palate creates an opening between the nose and mouth, which can lead to ear infections, hearing loss and speech difficulties – in addition to the feeding challenges that were already evident with Mi’Angel.

    When Mi’Angel was about 10 months old, Dr. Jennifer Rhodes repaired her cleft palate in a surgery that involved closing the cleft in layers and repairing the muscles in the soft palate. As with most surgeries of this kind, ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Rajanya Petersson was present to examine Mi’Angel’s ears and put ear tubes in place while she was still under anesthesia. Genetic testing was also coordinated while she was in the operating room so she didn’t have to feel the needle stick and we could ensure ongoing care was comprehensive to meet all her needs. She then spent the night in our pediatric intensive care unit so we could monitor her breathing as she acclimated to this new way of swallowing and breathing at the same time.

    In a time that was scary and overwhelming for a new mom, Mona was grateful for Ruth and Dr. Rhodes.

    “Ruth Trivelpiece was amazing. I would call or email her any time and she always replied in a timely manner. She’s a joy to work with,” said Mona. “Dr. Rhodes was wonderful too. I feel like she was more than just the surgeon. She made us feel as if we were family. She provided care for Mi’Angel like she was her own daughter and explained the process and procedures to the whole family.” 

    Monitoring Mi’Angel’s progress as she grows

    For the first three weeks at home, Mi’Angel had to keep a soft, liquid diet to allow her mouth time to heal. After an initial follow-up appointment with Dr. Rhodes to confirm everything looked great, our specialists in plastic surgery, audiology, otolaryngology, speech therapy, genetics, psychology and dentistry see Mi’Angel every six months to keep an eye on her speech development, check her ears and ensure overall health related to her cleft palate repair.

    Not all cleft palate programs are created equal. Our comprehensive craniofacial center focuses on the whole child and family. With all the right team members and support programs in place, we help ensure kids not only have a successful surgery, but have the tools they need to thrive like Mi’Angel has.

    While feeding, breathing and healing are the initial areas of focus immediately after surgery, speech can be impacted in the following months and years. We continue to work with Mi’Angel on resonance and speech development. This includes using a nasopharyngoscope, or flexible tube with a light and camera inserted through the nose, to see how her palate muscles are working when she repeats words and sentences. Knowing this can be a little overwhelming for kids, we provide a coloring book in advance to help them understand what to expect, along with special rewards throughout the exam.

    Today, lovable, smart and witty Mi’Angel is going about her life enjoying dancing, family and making TikTok videos. She’s come a long way from struggles with feeding to feasting on her favorite seafood. Our team will continue to be by her side, making sure she’s progressing with her speech and in school, and caring for all her needs as she grows and thrives. Some children need follow-up surgery to help with speech or dental concerns. If that’s the case with Mi’Angel, she has an expert team at the ready.

    “The Center for Craniofacial Care at CHoR is the best place for Mi’Angel. She’s had the benefit of Dr. Rhodes’ surgical expertise, along with integrated, comprehensive care from all her providers in one place. We love working with Mi’Angel and her family and are eager to watch her progress in the years to come,” added Ruth.

    Learn more about the comprehensive cleft and craniofacial care at CHoR.

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