One Of This Month's Featured Families!
August 2002

Bilateral Cleft Lip and Palate
The OB was resistive, but decided to give in just to ease her mind.  After an hour of looking, nothing could be seen.  The baby was just in the wrong position to see the mouth.  Although she was disappointed, she had prayed that God would give her peace regardless of the outcome of the ultrasound...and He did.  She didn't think about it another day through the rest of the pregnancy.

Keri was induced 3 days after her due date, because the OB was going on vacation.  However, her body wasn't ready to have a baby, and the entire labor process lasted 41 hours before her baby was born.  Chris and Keri had chosen not to find out what they were having, in order to be surprised.  When Savannah's head was delivered,
They were excited the day they found out they were going to have a baby.  They had experienced a miscarriage of twins the month prior, so they were excited but apprehensive.  Keri was put on progesterone supplements to prevent miscarriage again.

During the pregnancy, Keri was prescribed to take phenobarbitol to control her epilepsy.
to make new friends, not knowing how important these families would be later on to her.

During the 6th month of pregnancy, Keri read in a drug handbook that the medication she was taking was a class D risk, which meant that it was not safe to take during pregnancy, unless the benefits clearly outweighed the risks.  She immediately questioned her OB about the risk to her unborn baby, and he replied, "It can cause cleft lip and palate."  It was as though someone had knocked her over.  She immediately requested an ultrasound to determine if a cleft was present.
She asked if it was safe to take during pregnancy, and the neurologist replied, "It is the only safe medication to take during pregnancy."  This was a reassuring statement, so she went on the medication without further consideration.  She also took a prenatal vitamin prior to and during the pregnancy.

Her neurologist said to take an extra folic acid in addition to the prenatal vitamin, so she began taking an extra tablet of folic acid as well.  She ate healthy foods, did her best to maintain a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy and never exposed herself to cigarette smoke or alcohol.  She did get pneumonia during the first trimester, which required aggressive treatment, but other than that....had no trouble during the pregnancy.

During the course of the pregnancy, Keri worked in early childhood special education as a speech pathologist with children 0-5 years of age, including 3 children born with cleft lip and palate.  It was so rewarding and a wonderful opportunity
the doctor said, "Now the baby does have a little cleft lip and palate, but it's not bad at all.  They will be able to fix that up no problem."  Keri immediately felt her heart sink and she sighed in disbelief.  She completed pushing to find out that they had a baby girl.

Savannah Corrinne was born on October 22, 1999 to Chris and Keri.  She was born with a bilateral incomplete cleft lip and bilateral complete cleft palate.  She weighed 7 pounds 13 ounces and was 21 inches long.  She was absolutely beautiful!!  She had beautiful skin and dark hair.  Her eyes were dark brown from the very first day she was born.
Keri Wiseman is the founder and president of FOCUS, Inc.,
a cleft support group in the state of Nebraska.

Hear Keri's TeleConference Presentation!
Speech Development and the Child with Cleft Palate
Chris and Keri W. live near a small town called Alvo in Nebraska.  Chris is a manager for a bottled water company and Keri is a speech pathologist.
Chris and Keri began calling family.  Keri explained everything about how big she was, her name, what she looked like, that she was perfectly healthy....and that she was born with a cleft lip and palate.  The silence on the other end was nearly deafening.  Most people knew what it was...especially many of Keri's friends who were also speech pathologists.  There were some that didn't know, and explaining was often difficult.  Most were just concerned that she might have a life-threatening condition.

Feeding was the most immediate concern, and Keri was so disheartened that she wouldn't be able to breastfeed.  Keri knew about feeding methods with cleft palate and requested several different kinds of nipples/bottles to try out one that would work.  However, the hospital didn't have the regular Haberman, but a mini-Haberman.  The lactation consultant was of little help when it came to feeding.  She spent less than an hour helping them learn to feed their baby, and then they were on their own.  They left the hospital not knowing how to feed their baby.

Visitors were kind, for the most part.  Only one visitor wouldn't hold Savannah, and it broke Keri's heart.  However, the kindest words she heard came from their pediatrician, who said, "Keri, she is a beautiful baby.  She has the most beautiful
features."  It nearly made Keri was just what she needed to hear.  It also meant a lot that their pediatrician was a Christian, and they knew he would be praying for them and helping them as much as he could.

Savannah eventually was put on the Mead Johnson, since it was the only bottle that would work for her.  She gained weight fairly well, but was by no means chubby.  She was over 10 pounds before surgery, and was healthy for lip repair at 3 months of age.  That surgery proved very difficult for Keri.  She had fallen in love with the cleft, and that beautiful wide smile!!  The change was almost too much for her.  She spent hours crying...mourning the loss of her daughter's beautiful smile.  Savannah didn't take a bottle well after surgery and they spent 5 days in the hospital instead of the average 48 hours.  The anesthesia had made her constipated as well as the morphine and codeine they had given her.  She went over 6 days without a bowel movement.  After she had her bowel movement, she began eating much better!  Keri used a Mead Johnson bottle with a Ross Cleft Palate nipple.  It worked great for feeding!

They struggled with the horrible comments they received about the arm restraints.  Some ladies commented that no mother should be able to keep their child after having dropped them, broken both arms and damaging their face the way it was.  It was difficult to maintain a sense of composure when people would say things like that.

Shortly after Savannah had recovered from the lip surgery and had the arm restraints removed, they started Savannah on the Haberman bottle.  It significantly reduced the spitting up and Savannah did wonderfully with it.  Around that same time, Keri started a support group for families in Nebraska.  She decided to name it Focus On Clefts--Uplift & Support.  She didn't want to be under the restrictions of another organization, but wanted to have the group be its own entity, with freedom to do whatever she wanted with it.  She had two families in the group at the beginning and began distributing a newsletter to parents and professionals.  Keri had no idea how quickly it would grow. 

Palate sugery was done the day after Savannah's 1st birthday.  It was almost more traumatic, because when she would cry, it was a definite cry of pain...and there was nothing Keri could do to help her feel better.  She spent 6 days in the hospital following this surgery, because again she wouldn't eat or drink.  She also began running a high fever and became lethargic.  It was a long ordeal and took months before she began eating like she did before the surgery.  She lost a pound in the hospital and it took nearly 8 months to gain that pound back.

Keri did sign language with Savannah from the time she was around 7 months on.  She began signing at 8 1/2 months and continued to use signs to communicate.  By 18 months, she knew and used around 20 signs.  She was never frustrated in communicating.  She was also developing more verbal language.  It was fun to see her making new sounds and using more words.  It was also reassuring to Keri.

Savannah is now nearing her 3rd birthday, and talking all the time.  She talks in 5-6 word sentences and is fairly intelligible.  She does still have an oronasal fistula that makes it difficult for her to say many sounds.  They are working on getting an obturator that will close off the hole and one that she'll keep in her mouth.  Savannah has 2 extra teeth in her palate, which make it difficult to get an obturator designed. 

Keri is constantly busy working on her support group and doing speaking engagements about cleft lip and palate.  Savannah has a younger brother, Wesley, who is nearly 8 months old.  They feel completely blessed and wouldn't have things any other way!!
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