Having a bone graft is an often-expected part of treatment for cleft lip and palate patients. I had mine when I was nine. As I grew, the initial repair wasn’t enough and a small gap had been created where the roof of my mouth had been stitched together.
Before I had my bone graft I wore a wire brace to prepare my teeth for the surgery which gave the surgeons more manoeuvrability. They took a tiny bit of bone from my hip and put it into the small gap in the roof of my mouth, which left a very small scar on my hip. The actual procedure didn’t take very long, but I stayed in hospital overnight because my hip was very sore. Being on a children’s ward was a lot of fun though – they had videos and games, and the playroom was a great incentive to get up and start walking again!
Once I got home, I took it easy for a few days, alternating between my Nintendo DS, films on telly and my brother’s PS2 video games. I also slept a lot because the anaesthetic was still working its way out my system. As my recovery progressed, I was able to gradually put more and more weight onto my hip and my bruising and swelling subsided. When I’d first come out of hospital it looked like I’d been in a wrestling match, my skin was pulled very tight as my cheeks were swollen. We joked that I was turning all the colours of the rainbow as my bruises shifted from red to black to purple to green (where I felt like Princess Fiona from Shrek!) all the way to yellow.
I happened to have my surgery on the Friday of a half term week. So it felt really cool to have an extra week off school post-surgery. Also, a few of my friends who knew I’d had the operations organised a massive get-well card, where all my classmates (and some of my brother’s friends two years above me) wrote get well wishes and jokes to cheer me up.
It’s things like this card, a small me-to-you bear surprise package from a family friend, or even the simple helium ‘get well soon’ balloon that was waiting for me when I got home that made me feel so supported and loved.
After I had fully recovered, a new retainer was put in place that had a false tooth on it so that the gap directly where my palate had been sewn up was filled in. When the palate was sewn, although the skin had come together, there wasn’t any gum (or teeth) to go with it. As a child, the gap is smaller and since most children are a little gappy when it comes to teeth, the gap was never really noticeable. However, at age ten, when more children have got all their adult teeth (I had mine at nine), the gap would have been more noticeable. So, although at ten years old it felt a little odd to have a false tooth, it became a relief to have an extra support that would not only keep my teeth where they should be, but would also help me to seem more ‘normal’ through my teenage years.