Brody Prince George, BC
Having gone through 22 surgeries for her own severe cleft lip, Lisa had a sense of what lay ahead when her son Brody was born with bilateral cleft lip and palate, meaning he didn’t have any roof on his mouth.
This condition made both breast and bottle-feeding impossible. Brody would also take too much air into his stomach, so if his team of doctors and surgeons were able to get any food into him, he would immediately throw it up.
At three and a half weeks, Brody was rapidly losing weight. He was sent from his home community in Prince George, BC to Vancouver for specialized care. He was provided with an artificial palate which was suctioned to the top of his mouth, allowing him to eat for the first time in his life. However, this was only the beginning of a long journey. While treatment for cleft lip improved has tremendously since Lisa’s childhood, Brody would need several surgeries as well as follow-up appointments to monitor the reshaping of his face.
Reshaping meant that tape was pulled tightly across Brody’s face, and wires were placed between his mouth and nose to hold the facial structure and nasal implants in place. “The tape had to be redone three times a day,” Lisa says. “He looked pretty interesting.”
These techniques drastically reduced the number of surgeries that Brody would need, but it was a constant challenge to keep the tiny baby from ripping the tape and wires off his face. “I had to put gloves on him, but even then he could wedge his hand under and pull the entire thing off," Lisa says. "Wires and tape everywhere! And then I would have to redo the whole thing.”
To keep the treatment on track, they would need to go to Vancouver – nearly 800 km away – every two weeks for several months. Brody needed constant monitoring because of the equipment on his face, which made driving to Vancouver impossible. Over time, his appointments would become less frequent, but he would still need specialized treatment for years. Going by bus would have been far too stressful for her and for other passengers. “Brody cried a lot,” Lisa says. “And people would stare at him because he looked so strange.”
With flying the only real option to get to Vancouver, the most worrying part for Lisa was the financial cost: as a single mom of two young children, she just couldn’t afford it. So it was an exciting day when she learned Hope Air would help get Brody to specialized medical support. “There’s no way he would have been able to see the doctor as often as he needed to without Hope Air,” Lisa says. “I don’t even know what I would do without it.” Over the years, Hope Air has been a faithful support, providing more than 20 flights.
Today, Brody is an active eight-year-old boy. He loves swimming and bike riding, and is looking forward to joining wrestling soon. He’s been through three surgeries already and he’ll need more as his face matures, but the days of tape and wires are a distant memory preserved only in Lisa’s scrapbook.
“It’s hard to express how grateful I am,” Lisa says. “Words don’t even describe how much of a huge blessing Hope Air has been.”