Raising Cleft, Craniofacial Awareness


julia tucker

Patients, families gather with Dell Children’s community to celebrate cleft and craniofacial successes

Julia Kate Tucker had multiple palate surgeries until she was just over a year old. She recently celebrated her second birthday. Her mom, Susie Tucker, describes Julia as outgoing and strong-willed, “just like any other normal child.”

A big part of what got the Tucker family to this point is the group of craniofacial specialists, nurses and other health care providers who serve the littlest cleft and craniofacial patients at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. Dell Children’s is part of Ascension, the nation’s largest nonprofit health care system and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

“Without the community and without the support we would’ve just felt lost. Having other people to promote this and give information is imperative for parents and makes you feel like you have hope,” says Tucker.

craniofacial groupAusin Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo delivers cleft and craniofacial proclamation

On Thursday, July 21, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo joined patients, families and health care providers for a special event at Dell Children’s to raise awareness about cleft and craniofacial conditions.

According to the CDC, about 7,000 babies will be born this year with a cleft lip or palate. July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month (NCCAPM).

“I am proud to help spread the word about the important work that NCCAPM and its partner organizations do throughout the year, offering support and education services for patients and families,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo. “We are so fortunate here in Austin to have Dell’s craniofacial team that provides tremendous medical care and support to children and families in the Central Texas region.”

Dell Children’s provides a comprehensive system of care for cleft, craniofacial patients

“This is where craniofacial and reconstructive plastic surgery experts come together, gathering all the necessary health care specialists from all the different fields into one place,” said Raymond Harshbarger, MD, pediatric craniofacial plastic surgeon at Dell Children’s.

Dr.H2The result: providing the best care possible to patients and their families.

Children born with cleft and craniofacial conditions can lead fulfilling, successful, accomplished lives, says Harshbarger. Clefts are usually repaired surgically in the first year of life, though many children require additional surgeries and treatments through adolescence to correct challenges to breathing, eating, or speech development.

Treatments vary depending on the severity of the condition, whether there are other syndromes or birth defects, the child’s age and other needs. Those born with cleft lip or palate often need specialized dental or orthodontic care throughout their lives too.