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UC Davis Children’s Hospital

UC Davis Children’s Hospital

Cleft and craniofacial reconstruction – Patient stories

Since 1973, the UC Davis Cleft and Craniofacial Program has helped thousands of children who were afflicted with cleft lip, cleft palate and craniofacial anomalies. All of the patients who come to us for treatment are unique, and their stories are both touching and inspiring. In this section, witness the startling transformations of just a few of the patients who received treatment and surgery in the Children's Hospital Cleft and Craniofacial Program.


When Corey was born in 1988, he was diagnosed with bilateral cleft lip. He was treated by Craig Senders, who performed lip repair and revision. Corey now lives with his family in Fairfield, California.


Nicholas was born in May 1995 with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. When Nicholas was 3 months of age, Craig Senders performed a lip adhesion, then four months later repaired his cleft lip. Senders and Jonathan Sykes repaired Nicholas’ cleft palate when he was a year old. Nicholas, who lives with his family in Nevada, now loves outdoor activities, including bike riding, camping, canoeing and fishing. He plays basketball and T-ball, and one of his favorite subjects in school is “speech”!


Talisha was born in 1993 with bilateral cleft lip and palate. She underwent presurgical orthopaedics with an oral appliance before Craig Senders and Jonathan Sykes repaired her lip when she was 5 months old. Her palate was repaired when she was a year old. Talisha now likes to skate and sing, and her home rings with her laughter.


Joey was born in 1994 with Opitz Syndrome, including bilateral cleft lip and palate, a cardiac problem, and gastrointestinal (stomach) problems. Joey endured difficult years as an infant and toddler, undergoing eight surgeries before he reached 3 years of age, followed by additional surgery to improve his speech. Today Joey — who loves football, pizza, and his dog Sadie — is doing fine. When he grows up he wants to be a firefighter.



Steven was born with Velocardiofacial Syndrome (VCFS), a cluster of conditions including a split in the palate muscles of the mouth that render a child’s speech very nasal. VCFS is regarded as the most common genetic cause of clefting. Steven also exhibited certain characteristic facial features of the condition, notably broadening at the upper portion of his nose.

For the first eight years of his life, Steven wore an obturator — a plate — in his mouth to help his speech. In 1998, he underwent surgery for the split in his palate. Luckily, he has no evidence of heart complications that can accompany Velocardiofacial Syndrome.

Steven, who lives with his mother in Chico, California, attends speech therapy classes twice a week at his elementary school. They share their house with five pets (two goldfish, two parakeets and a mischievous cat). Steven likes to bowl and play computer games, and in the summer he loves to go swimming. His local newspaper featured Steven as a “Star With a Heart” in recognition of his generosity to other people.


Maia now Maia was born in 1993 with lymphangioma/hemangioma of the tongue and neck. A few weeks after her birth, she underwent tracheostomy and surgical excision of the lymphangioma, a cluster of enlarged lymphatic vessels. Additional surgery was performed in January 1995, when doctors reduced her tracheal scarring.

Doctors performed surgical tongue reduction that October, and laser revision two years later. Then in August 1998, Maia’s tracheostomy was at last removed, enabling her to breathe though her nose. She also has undergone extensive speech and swallowing therapy.

Maia now attends school in Sacramento, where she lives with her mom and younger brother. She loves to sing, she keeps a diary, and she has a nice circle of friends. Maia has compensated for her tongue defect and now speaks and eats without difficulty.