July is National Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness month. To promote this, Perkins County Health Services is challenging its employees to raise funds for “Smile Train.”
Cleft palates and lips are the third most common birth defect. Each year 4,400 children are born in the U.S. with cleft lips.
To promote this, Perkins County Health Services is challenging its employees to raise funds for the organization, “Smile Train.” As part of the promotion, they have chosen to tell the story of two very different individuals connected to PCHS.
One is Brayson Montelongo who is the two-year-old grandson of Tammy Gasseling, who works in the business office at PCHS. The other is Taffy Hastings, an LPN who has worked in nursing for 39 years.
Brayson Montelongo was born with a cleft lip and palate. Modern awareness and surgery have made his story a very positive one. Brayson used a special bottle called a pigeon bottle that allowed him to chew instead of suck. When he was three weeks old, the taping process began which allowed the lip to move in closer. He wore tape day and night.
Brayson had his first surgery when he was only five months old to repair the lip. This surgery lasted four hours. In July of 2013 he had surgery to repair the palate and this surgery also lasted four hours. When Brayson is between the age of five and eight, he will have another surgery that will take a hip bone and place it in his gum. Brayson is an adorable, active two year old.
Brayson’s mom, Teresa wanted to reach out to others who have children with cleft abnormalities. After much research, Teresa came upon the organization, “Smile Train.” “Smile Train” performs corrective surgeries for children from under privileged countries around the world. A donation of $250 covers the cost for one of these children to have surgery.
Taffy Hastings was born in March 1954 in Oshkosh. She was the youngest of six children and the first child the local physician had delivered with a cleft lip and palate. Taffy’s mother was a homemaker and her father worked for Union Pacific Railroad. At that time Union Pacific did not offer health care benefits and resources for financial assistance was very limited.
Taffy’s mother fed her with an eye dropper until the age of three months. When Taffy was approximately two months old, her family learned that the Schriner’s Club would be traveling by train through Nebraska and stopping at depots to speak with the families of children with birth defects.
The family’s hometown of Lisco was one of the stops. Taffy’s mother attended the meeting and told the members of the barriers the local physician was having with Taffy’s care.
Within the next month, Taffy was scheduled for surgery. This was the beginning of a long journey to repair both the cleft lip and palate.
Taffy recalls having surgery every other year and sometimes every year until the age of 12.
These surgeries were usually in the summer to avoid respiratory infections. Taffy usually stayed four to five weeks each time she was in the hospital. She had recurring ear infections because the eustachian tube didn’t function properly and tubes in the ears were not an option at the time.
At the age of nine years old, Taffy had to have her permanent upper teeth removed surgically.
The upper lip was separated from the gum line and moist packs were then inserted to force the wound to heal while open.
The opening was then used to allow an upper denture to be fitted under the base of the nose to pull out the upper lip.
While growing up, she had a lot of speech therapy. During junior high and high school she only had two surgeries. The final surgery was in 1973, the stay only three days, and it was her decision to not have any further surgeries.
In 1978, two more upper teeth developed and had to be removed.
A fissure developed and this was repaired by a plastic surgeon who then also reconstructed her upper lip.
Today, many who know and work with Taffy do not realize she even had a cleft lip.
She is very grateful for having the mother she had and to the Schriner’s Club for all their help.
Taffy is an LPN at Perkins County Health Services and has three grown children.
~submitted by Perkins County
Health Services staff