The next stage in my cleft story was my operations, all of which took place at Great Ormond Street Hospital. My first
operation was the initial repair of my cleft lip when I was 12 weeks old. We lived in London so the hospital wasn’t far. My Dad remembers having to carry me around all day to distract me, being a 12 week old baby I wanted food non-stop, but the fact I was having an operation meant I wasn’t allowed to eat anything. So for what seemed to my parents for hours and hours I was lugged around the wards strapped onto the front of my Dad in a comfy baby harness. Then it was our turn and Mum and Dad took me to the pre-op room to have the anaesthetic.
They watched me as I fell asleep and then they had to leave me for about 4 hours. Mr Brian Sommerlad operated on me and he came and told my parents the operation had been successful. Mum and Dad collected me from recovery and I had a sponge up my nose and stitches. I was very sleepy and very grumpy – not a happy bunny. But I was able to feed quite quickly (I’ve always been a fan of food!) and the hospital took really great care of me and Mum.
The next day Father Christmas came to Great Ormond Street and I was given a big sparkly ted, Sparkle Bear, and a beanie giraffe called, Ormond. They still live on my shelf. We were all home in time for Christmas. Unfortunately on Christmas eve I got an awful cold and because my nose was still clogged from the operation I couldn’t breathe very well and needed an emergency doctor. We were all a bit tired on Christmas day, but my big sister and grandparents decorated the house, so my first Christmas was still memorable and merry. I had loads of presents from friends and family because I had been in hospital and my sister got loads of presents too!
There wasn’t another operation for years but in between there were still some significant moments. In primary school, was the first time anyone ever said anything about my scar and the extra tissue behind my top lip. An ignorant boy pointed out my scar and how my front tooth was off to the side. It did upset me, but Mum and Dad taught me to tell people I was born with a gap in my lip, which I was perfectly happy to do. Most people didn’t even notice. But I still didn’t like the scar tissue that was visible when I smiled, so when we went to see Brian Sommerlad again he said “there’s something we can do about that!”
I was about 6 when I went for this operation and I do still remember it. Me and Dad played Mario Kart for hours and hours in the waiting room and I still remember waking up and making a hospital friend. A girl in one of the beds opposite me had been given a toy cat – brand new and she let me open it! And on this hospital visit I kept a diary called ‘My Book of Hosbitle’ (I wasn’t the best speller).
We’re about halfway through the story now, just my bone graft and life in secondary school to go!
Annabelle Sparkle xx