In his own words, Michael tells his story of growing up with a cleft in the Netherlands, and then in the UK.
I was born in the Netherlands in September 1998 with a severe bilateral Cleft Lip and Palate. Compared to the UK, there are a much lower percentage of babies born with a cleft in the Netherlands. Mine was one of the more severe cases, and as a result, surgery messed up my lip not once but twice, and destroyed my palate. This left me with a cleft lip and a palate which were even more severe than when I was born.
In March 2001, I moved to the UK with my family and was placed under the care of Mr. Sommerlad, who at the time worked at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. He told my mum that I was one of the more severe cases he’d seen. Within the first month of living in the UK, he not only miraculously repaired my lip, he also properly repaired my palate through buccinator flap surgery, using what was left and cheek tissue.
Now, nearly 17 years and few bone grafts later and following intensive speech therapy, a lot of orthodontic work, and another lip repair later, I’ve had 17 operations – and one still to go! Despite all my obstacles, I still enjoy life both within Great Ormond Street and at college, and I would like to thank everyone who has helped me to get where I am today!