My Cleft Story – #3

September 4, 2017

My final instalment deals with something that was really quite difficult although it all worked out well in the end. When I was 9 I went back to GOSH for an alveolar bone graft, the first operation I really can remember.

Months before the graft I had to have some teeth removed which actually was no problem at all. I didn’t mind a couple of days of smoothies and jelly, and my orthodontist had to widen the gap in my teeth where the cleft was this seemed pretty strange, but it was needed for the bone graft.

We went up to London just after my ninth birthday, October time, and stayed the night in Western House which is GOSH’s family accommodation. We stayed there because we needed to come up to London the day before the operation for the pre op assessment and it’s a long way from Devon! My parents bought me a Lego game and took me to pizza express for an early dinner because I wasn’t allowed to eat after 7pm. The next morning we packed up and went over to the hospital, I was clutching my brand new teddy Annabear for emotional support in her special outfit, then when I had to put on my hospital gown and wrist band so did Annabear, the nurses got her a little babies gown and band it said “Annabear” just like how mine said “Annabelle”. I was one of the first children on the list so there wasn’t much waiting time which was lucky because I was getting hungry! Mum, Dad and Annabear walked me down to anaesthesiology after that I don’t really remember much other than the gas smelt weird, the nurses were saying it smelt like pineapples. It didn’t. And then another nurses started telling me a joke about giraffes but I don’t remember the punch line I think I was probably asleep by that point. Mum always says I was really brave because I was worried about this one but I did it anyway with no fuss.

The next thing, I was waking up dazed and confused and all I wanted was my parents and my teddy. Once I had stopped seeing the world in a blurred double I sat up and saw Annabear perched on the end of my bed the only thing my drowsy mind could think to do was just reach, my tiny little arms couldn’t reach far enough and I was clearly looking distressed when a woman with a baby came over and passed me up my teddy. That’s a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Mum and Dad arrived five minutes later, though they really had wanted to be there for me when I woke up, but the hospital was busy that day and the message didn’t get passed on. I remember a nurse asking me if I wouldn’t need a wheelchair to get to my room because my hip was probably sore but I walked just fine and hobbled along and got into my bed.

Me after my bone graft looking very swollen!

The first night in the hospital was hard, I was on a drip and had a button for morphine my face was massively swollen and I couldn’t eat or drink or talk. I stayed pretty much the same over the next three days watching Disney films not eating and throwing up mostly blood I had swallowed. By day three the nurses were saying I ought to be eating and ought to be ready to leave, but I really wasn’t. That evening I was very sick and everybody got a bit worried, I had to go back on a drip because I was dehydrated. Then the next afternoon I managed to eat a tiny bit of ice cream and when Dad came to visit, I grabbed his hand and led him down the corridor and pointed at the exit sign. I wanted to leave. Mum talked to the nurses and they said if I finished a carton of apple juice I could go home. Then we headed back to granny and grandpa’s I still hadn’t said a word, I really didn’t like having to touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth, but after one night in a bed I knew I woke up feeling much better and spoke again and even managed some breakfast.

I was really upset when Halloween came around a week later and we were back home and I couldn’t even go trick or treating, I had dressed up and everything.

This was the hardest operation I experienced and probably one of the most painful experiences I can remember, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It made my teeth and gums so much better and I think it’s probably shaped the way I see things, for example if I am doing a test I can think “well if I did all those operations then I can do this test!” I also think this operation had an impact on my parents. Dad says he always feels emotional whenever we go to GOSH because it reminds him of the times he’s waited for me when I’m in theatre “they’re long hours”. I can imagine it’s pretty hard on them to have to send me off, mum says she still feels a sinking feeling in her stomach when she thinks about how she wasn’t there when I woke up.

And this is me now. You can still see the scar but honestly I like it, it’s who I am and I wouldn’t change it for the world.


Read the beginning of Annabelle’s story here! 

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