Iris had her first surgery, to repair a cleft lip, at 3 months of age. She had her second surgery, to repair her cleft palate, at 10 months of age.
And, her mom says, Iris hasn't stopped smiling since.
Nineteen weeks into her pregnancy, Machell was informed that Iris would have a cleft lip and palate, abnormalities that affect a child's appearance and can impact feeding, speech development and even hearing.
Machell was understandably nervous about the diagnosis, and hours of internet searches only heightened her anxiety. But at her first appointment with NHRMC Physician Specialists, Dr. Michael Jaskolka provided the reassurance that Machell needed.
The NHRMC Cleft Lip and Palate Team has a plan in place to work with cleft patients from infancy through early adulthood. The team includes all of the professionals who can provide the support that Iris and Machell need:
- Ear, nose and throat specialist
- Feeding team
- Genetic counselor
- Pediatric dentist
- Social worker
- Speech pathologist
Machell was comforted that oral/facial clefts are treatable, and that the surgery and follow-up visits could be scheduled here in Wilmington. Immediately, Machell felt a calming presence. Dr. Jaskolka encouraged her to call him if she had any questions.
"I found out later that Dr. Jaskolka is a great surgeon, but I knew from the beginning that he was a sincere, honest, good person," Machell said.
Machell gave birth to Iris on a Saturday in January. Eager to meet his newest patient, Dr. Jaskolka called to say he would visit the next day. From that day forward, his team was available when Iris needed him.
"When you take care of kids that have ongoing needs, you develop a relationship with the patients and families," Dr. Jaskolka said. "It is rewarding for all of us on the team to watch them grow and thrive."
In Iris' first baby pictures, she lies swaddled in a pink blanket, a pink bow in her hair. The only imperfection is a split in the upper lip.
Iris' first surgery fixed the cleft lip. Since then, Iris' contagious smile has been raising spirits wherever she goes.
Iris' palate was corrected and ear tubes were inserted during her second surgery. And she's far from finished with her medical care. She will need speech therapy, specialized dental care, orthodontics, and possibly additional surgeries. The nationally recognized NHRMC Cleft Team will care for her until she reaches adulthood.
For now, Iris is making good use of her reconstructed smile.
She mirrors her mother's smile in a quick game of peek-a-boo. She smiles and squeals gleefully when big brother James pulls her in a red wagon. And those around her smile, too.
How to enroll
Enrollment is available to all patients in North and South Carolina. Dr. Jaskolka, Dr. Goldwasser, and nurse coordinator Alana McKeever, RN are available to talk with families and answer any questions.
Prenatal consultation is available at the request of an obstetrician or maternal fetal medicine specialist. For more information about the Cleft Palate Team, please call 910.667.6406.