When Nicole brought her newborn daughter, Mia, to her 3-month checkup, she knew something was wrong.
Mia had been experiencing difficulties with feeding and weighed in at only 7 pounds. Once the physician opened Mia’s mouth large enough to get a good look inside, the cause of Mia’s feeding difficulties became clear. Mia was diagnosed with a cleft palate, which occurs when the tissues that form the roof of the mouth do not join together before birth.
A Connection to Shriners Children’s Boston
“I had no idea what a cleft palate was, and I was so terrified,” Nicole said. “The doctor gave me two choices of where to go: Shriners or Boston Children’s, and I chose Shriners.” Nicole was already familiar with the hospital thanks to her brother’s work with the Boston Firefighters Burn Foundation, so she was confident in her choice. Shriners Children’s Boston partners with the Boston Firefighters Burn Foundation through our Team Brave initiative, which helps our patients who are recovering from burn injuries begin reintegrating into the community by participating in empowering activities and fun outings with the firefighters.
When Nicole brought Mia in for an appointment with the staff at the Cleft and Craniofacial Center, she was impressed with the multidisciplinary team, which includes a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, speech pathologist, nutritionist, care manager and other specialized clinicians. “Every time we walk in, there are so many smiling faces to greet us, and we get to meet with the entire care team,” Nicole said.
Every time we walk in, there are so many smiling faces to greet us, and we get to meet with the entire care team.
Compassionate Care for Patients and Families
Eric Liao, M.D., chief of staff and co-director of the Cleft and Craniofacial Center, performed surgery to correct Mia’s palate when she was 10 months old. Nicole described the operating room technicians and the nurses who cared for Mia throughout this procedure as “absolute angels” and voiced her gratitude for the care and compassion she herself received from the care team.
“It was really hard seeing Mia go under anesthesia because she was still so small, and I was also grieving the recent loss of my father and my brother,” Nicole said. “I was in an incredibly vulnerable state, and the staff took that into consideration. They let me be with her and hold her, and they empathized with me and helped me feel comfortable.”
As Mia grows older, clinicians at Shriners Children’s Boston will continue to watch her palate closely and monitor her progress. “It’s great when we go for appointments because it feels like we’re walking into familiar territory and the care team is pretty much family now,” Nicole said. “If they told us we had to go back until Mia was 18 years old, we wouldn’t even complain because we love going there so much!”
Now almost 3 years old, Mia is a spirited and loving little girl who adores dinosaurs, chocolate milk and having all eyes on her. “Wherever she goes, she commands the room,” Nicole laughed. “She is full of energy, spunk and sass!”