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Third Time Is the Charm for Cleft Lip Surgery at Shriners Children's Boston

Eliza’s family is feeling forever grateful that their daughter received her cleft lip surgery at Shriners Children’s Boston.

“The first surgery was rescheduled because I had COVID. Second was because Eliza was sick,” explained Eliza’s mother, Michelle. “By the third surgery, we were so nervous, but as the saying goes, the ‘third time is the charm.’”

Michelle received her daughter’s diagnosis during a 20-week anatomy scan and was referred to Shriners Children’s Boston by her obstetrician, where she met with Kavitha L. Ranganathan, M.D., via a Zoom call. Michelle felt reassured by that meeting and, shortly after Eliza was born, she became a patient of Dr. Ranganathan.

Dr. Ranganathan is a board-certified plastic surgeon and co-director of the Shriners Children’s Boston Cleft and Craniofacial Center, a collaborative program with Mass General for Children. Patients coming for care receive a comprehensive plan to meet their clinical and developmental needs. They also have the opportunity to meet with plastic surgeons, speech pathologists, orthodontists and dietitians in a single visit.

"It is an honor and privilege to take care of children with clefts and their families at Shriners Children's. It is extremely rewarding to provide such care, beginning in infancy and extending into the young adult years. And providing this care, alongside the exceptional team that we have, is the absolute best," said Dr. Ranganathan.

Facial clefts form in the womb and are the No. 1 craniofacial birth difference treated at Shriners Children’s. A cleft lip forms when the lip does not properly develop, causing a newborn’s smile to split. The opening can be repaired with reconstructive plastic surgery. Many craniofacial differences will require multiple surgeries to improve appearance and function.

All the staff were great, Dr. Ranganathan, everyone was so supportive and encouraging.
Michelle, Eliza's mother

A cleft lip by itself may only require one operation when a child is a baby – the cleft lip repair surgery. A Shriners Children's surgeon will perform a cleft lip repair shortly after birth. Michelle remembers during her daughter’s surgery that “all the staff were great, Dr. Ranganathan, everyone was so supportive and encouraging.” Babies usually see the surgeon for a follow-up appointment two weeks after surgery. Depending on a child’s age, soft foods are typically added back into their diet after the visit.

Before her surgery, Eliza’s family struggled to get her to eat, so she was given a gastrostomy tube (G-tube). A G-tube is placed in the stomach as another way for children to receive nutrients when they cannot get enough by mouth.

Eliza loves trying new foods since her surgery and even participates in family dinner. Her mother cherishes these moments after fearing the worst. “It fills our heart with love and laughter seeing Eliza have such positivity towards food,” said Michelle. “Seeing her struggle as a newborn, we were worried this would be something that would affect her life and growth overall.” She added, “Words cannot express the respect I have for Dr. Ranganathan. She is so caring and treats us like family. I am so proud she is my daughter’s surgeon.”

Eliza’s family is active in Shriners Children's Boston’s signature fundraising event, the Boston Haunted Walk. “We are proud to say that we fundraised $1,500 for the 2023 Haunted Walk,” Michelle said. The family looks forward to continuing to help the hospital through donations, so that children with Eliza’s condition, or other medical needs, can get the help they need from Shriners Children’s Boston.

Michelle is offering hope to other families who are going through similar situations as Eliza. “Things will be very hard, overwhelming and emotional, but remember, there are so many people going through the same thing, we are not alone,” she said.

Meet Eliza

Eliza's family is grateful for the amazing patient-centered care she is receiving during her cleft lip treatment at Shriners Children's Boston.

Cleft lip patient in hospital

Eliza at Shriners Children's Boston before her cleft lip surgery

Cleft lip patient post surgery

Eliza relaxing in a family member's arms

Cleft lip patient smiling in hospital bed

Eliza showing off her smile

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