David was born in 1955 with a cleft lip and palate.
Having worked hard on his own confidence over the years, he hopes that sharing his story will help to inspire young people born with a cleft who are still finding their way.
I first became aware of my cleft from a very early age, just before I started school.
When I was born in July 1955 with a double cleft lip and palate it wasn’t as much of a surprise to my mother. There had been a few cases of cleft lip and palate on her side of the family back in Ireland, she actually had an uncle and an aunt born with cleft lip and palate. It was a shock to my dad though, as far as he knew there was no history of cleft on the Watson side of the family.
I joined the CLAPA community in the mid-1990s and have found it very interesting to share my experiences
It was in 1956, at the age of 6 months old, that I had my first operation. After that it was a series of surgeries throughout my early childhood and into my late teens in the 1970s.
I coped with the surgeries and treatment for my cleft well but growing up, from my childhood to my teens right through to being a young adult in my twenties, I was anxious and never mixed very well. I think this was probably the result of some cruel name-calling and bullying.
As an adult I had surgery at 22 years old. This was major facial surgery to realign my jaw, bringing my upper jaw forward and my lower jaw back. This operation totally transformed me, making my speech much better. It gave me so much more confidence to face the challenges that lay ahead in my life.
Some people have asked, and do still ask, about my cleft from time to time and for the most part are very supportive, so I have welcomed talking about it. On the other hand, there are some nasty people, now and then, who are very negative and hurtful, so I tend to ignore them. I have been lucky to have had a lot of support throughout my life from my family and close friends.
Perhaps older people like me born with a cleft could be a good mentor to a young person born with a cleft, giving them support.
I joined the CLAPA community in the mid-1990s and have found it very interesting to share my experiences and to support other people with a cleft, especially young people.
I am now nearly 63 years old and have been married to my wife Angela for 20 years. Sadly, we have no children, but we enjoy a full and active life. I am a lay minister in the Roman Catholic Church and a lay brother in the St Vincent de Paul Society, a position which involves visiting those who are sick and housebound. I’m also a Community Peer Mentor, a volunteer role that allows me to meet with local people to help them work through the issues they are facing in their lives. As well as this I work part time on the checkout at a local supermarket, after retiring from a 30 year career in catering as a chef.
I have found that I have had to work hard to achieve a good life. I have good friends and family, and my advice to young people out there struggling with a cleft is for them and their parents to talk to older members of the UK Cleft Community and to take comfort. Perhaps older people like me born with a cleft could be a good mentor to a young person born with a cleft, giving them support.