Doctors at Mount Sinai Repaired Javier's Cleft Palate in Time to Celebrate His First Birthday

On April 5, 2010, after a high risk pregnancy, Javier Antonio Murphy was born at Mount Sinai Hospital. The delivery went smoothly, but as the delivery room nurse quickly motioned to other doctors to examine the new baby, Helen Fernandez and her husband Rod Murphy had a nagging suspicion that something was wrong. Soon after, they were told that "Javy" had been born with a cleft palate, an opening in the soft palate at the back of his mouth.

"We were nervous," Helen remembers. "We had no idea how this condition would impact Javy's life."

Within hours of diagnosis, two of Mount Sinai's plastic and reconstructive surgeons, Dr. Peter Taub and Dr. Lester Silver, met with Helen and Rod in their hospital room to discuss Javy's condition and reassure them that they could repair the cleft. Helen remembers that the professionalism and dedication to even the smallest patients exhibited by both doctors gave them a strong sense of comfort.

"From the moment we knew there was a problem, we knew exactly what to expect," said Helen.

Meeting the Team and Setting the Goal

At their first appointment, the family met with the multidisciplinary team, which included a pediatric ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist; a genetic specialist; a pediatric dentist; a speech therapist; and other health care professionals, to discuss Javy's care, including any feeding issues.

At the consultation, Dr. Taub explained to Javy's parents that repair of the cleft is ideally performed between 10-13 months of age, taking into account concerns for growth and language development.

"Once he gave us the approximate time the surgery could be done, we thought it would be great if he could be through this before his first birthday," said Helen.

The family continued to meet with Dr. Taub's team monthly to track Javy’s development until he was deemed ready for surgery at 10 months of age.

With Dr. Taub's skill and expertise, Javy sailed through surgery without any complications, though Helen still remembers the difficulty of waiting out the operation.

"Even though I'm a doctor, it is different when you are going through this for a loved one. It's a very anxiety-producing experience," Helen explained. "But Dr. Taub or a member of his team would come out periodically during the surgery to tell me how he was doing. Everyone was very involved in keeping me up to date, and afterwards they were very attentive to his needs. It gave us a great peace of mind."

Celebrating a Momentous First Birthday

In order to allow the repair to heal quickly and properly, the doctors instructed Helen and Rod on how to clip special arm restraints on Javy to prevent him from putting his hands in his mouth.

"Javy didn't like them very much," said Helen, laughing, "But after you've done all this work you don't want him to ruin it just by sticking his fingers in his mouth."

His recovery and continuing development were then monitored weekly after surgery. Six weeks later, Javy's palate had healed enough to remove the arm restraints. Though he would continue to follow-up monthly with Dr. Taub, Javy and his family were able to celebrate his first birthday with the surgery behind them just as they had hoped, thanks to the Mount Sinai team.

A Bright Future

Having just celebrated his third birthday, Javy is now a very energetic little boy who loves soccer and baseball. The only lingering side effect of the condition is an anticipated nasal sound to his voice, which is now being addressed by a speech therapist as he continues to grow and develop language skills.

"Javy is doing really well," said Helen, "We can't thank Dr. Taub enough for coming into our lives and improving the quality of life of our son."


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