Camila was one of five surgeries done during a ConnectMed International trip to Hospital Infantil de las Californias in June 2014. As part of a collaborative educational conference, students in UCSD’s Department of Plastic Surgery had the opportunity to meet Camila and her mother over video conference. While Camila waited for her turn to prep for her second surgery at Hospital Infantil, students asked Camila’s mother a variety of questions to help them get familiar with Camila’s medical history, current situation, and Camila’s mother’s mental and emotional perspective.
Camila’s mother shared that the hardest part of caring for a baby with a cleft lip was feeling that this birth defect was not fixable, and that she had no idea how to care for her child. The greatest obstacle was getting Camila to feed. Since her lip and gum had not grown all the way to her palate she was unable to breastfeed. Camila’s mother used a syringe to feed her.
At three months Camila received her first surgery to correct as much of her birth defect as possible. At one year and three months, Camila received an upper lip revision to take some of the fullness out of her lip which would help with future speech. Camila still suffered from breathing issues, which affected her sleep and caused her to snore at night. Camila’s mother shared that Camila had become a mouth breather and that this created inflammation and excess snot in her nose. The second surgery helped to adjust these issues so Camila could breathe easier and decrease her susceptibility to upper respiratory and viral issues, as well as ear infections.
The most interesting part of what Camila’s mother shared shed light on her cultural and social beliefs. When asked why Camila was born with a cleft lip she answered that it was because Camila was born on the night of an eclipse… the eclipse caused her to cleft. Through collaborative educational efforts, families such as Camila’s become more informed about birth defects, and are able to receive the information and tools for their children to live healthy lives.