A baby born with a cleft lip and palate can smile properly for the first time after undergoing a life-changing surgery to rebuild his mouth.
Cam Martin, a six-month-old from Forney, Texas, looks unrecognizable after a plastic surgeon spent five hours fixing his top lip. The baby boy’s parents Matt, 29, and Sara, 27, welcomed him just two minutes after his his twin brother, Jack, on April 3.
But unlike his sibling, Cam had a cleft lip and palate, meaning his upper lip, the bones of his upper jaw, and his gum were split.
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Before and after: Cam Martin, a six-month old from Forney, Texas, was able to smile for the first time after having life-changing surgery to fix his cleft lip
Birthday: The baby boy’s parents Matt, 29, and Sara, 27, welcomed him just two minutes after his his twin brother, Jack, on April 3
His condition was not picked up in any of Sara’s sonograms, but Matt said that as soon as Cam was born at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, he and his wife knew something was wrong.
‘No one said anything at first. I went over to see Cam and the nurses were all huddled together,’ the filmmaker, explained. ‘I had never seen anything like his face before. I had no idea what I was looking at.
‘A nurse told me he had a cleft lip and palate and that they needed to work out how he was going to eat and breathe.’
The defect meant Cam was unable to breastfeed and had to be fed through a bottle with a special valve.
After a few days on the neonatal intensive care unit, Cam returned home with his parents.
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Differences: Unlike his brother, Cam was born with a cleft lip and palate, meaning his upper lip, the bones of his upper jaw, and his gum were split
Struggle: The defect meant Cam was unable to breastfeed and had to be fed through a bottle with a special valve
In the weeks that followed, the couple visited a plastic surgeon who explained that Cam would require three operations to rebuild his mouth.
Baby Cam was fitted with a mouthpiece, known as a NAM device, that covered the roof of his mouth and stretched out the area in preparation for his first operation.
‘The mouthpiece had little balls that were fitted into Cam’s nostrils to stretch out the skin between his nose and mouth,’ Matt explained.
‘We had to go in every week for them to adjust it. We hated seeing Cam in pain and we did wonder whether we were doing the right thing.’
On July 25, when Cam was just three months old, he underwent the operation to fix his upper lip at Medical City Dallas Hospital.
Homecoming: Cam spent a few days in the neonatal intensive care unit before returning home with his parents
Journey: The couple visited a plastic surgeon who explained that Cam would require three operations to rebuild his mouth
Preparation: Cam was fitted with a mouthpiece, known as a NAM device, that covered the roof of his mouth and stretched out the area in preparation for his first operation
‘Doctors stitched his lip together where it was split so that his lip was no longer in three parts,’ Matt recalled. ‘It was really hard to hand him over for surgery. When the nurses gave him back he was screaming.
‘They had him on morphine and his face was swollen and bruised and bloody. It was like we had been given back a different baby.
‘He cried the whole day. We had to feed him with a syringe after the operation,’ he added. ‘I hated knowing that something we had chosen, the operation, had caused so much pain for our son.’
But a few days after the operation, as the swelling went down and the bruising healed, Matt and Sara were rewarded by seeing Cam smile for the first time with his full upper lip.
‘Sara was changing his diaper and I was watching TV. She started screaming: ‘Come in here, he’s smiling!’ Matt said.
‘I rushed in. I couldn’t believe it. In my darkest moments, I thought I’d never see him smile with a healed top lip but here he was beaming at me.’
Patience: Matt and Sara had to take Cam to the doctor every week to have the devise adjusted
On July 25, when Cam was just three months old, he underwent his first operation to fix his upper lip at Medical City Dallas Hospital
Heartwarming: After few days after Cam underwent an operation to fix his upper lip, Matt and Sara saw him smile fully for the first time
Adorable photos show the youngster smiling widely just a few days after the surgery.
‘It was a full face smile. He was giving the biggest grin he could,’ Matt said. ‘Sara and I cried because we were beginning to think we’d never see him smile.
‘The beam was in his eyes and in his cheeks. He was saying: “I’m still here, I’m still the same baby, everything’s OK.”
When Cam is 18 months old he will have a second surgery to repair the roof of his mouth. His final procedure, a bone graft to rebuild his gum, will taken place when is between the ages of four and seven.
Matt is sharing his story because he wants to give hope to other parents who are struggling with a baby who was born with a cleft lip and palate.
‘It is terrifying, but the scariest part is before you go and talk to surgeons,’ he explained. ‘Once you get your doctor and a solid team in place, it gets a lot less scary.
‘You fall in love with your baby and it doesn’t matter whether they have a cleft palate or not.’
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