Noah's Story

Jun 6, 2019

DMC Pediatric Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon Gives Noah his Smile

Incredible Cleft Palate Surgery: A Beautiful Reason to Smile

When Noah Fristedt was in his mother’s womb, his parents Jamiee Saputo and Tommy Fristedt learned he would be born with a cleft palate and lip, and would require at least a few, perhaps several, surgeries in his first few years. DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Dr. Arlene Rozzelle explains how the developmental issue occurs:

“Your face is made up of three parts: one part comes down from the middle and one part from each side, and they have to fuse and align on each side of your nose and lip. If for some reason they don’t fuse on one side or another or both sides, you can develop a cleft. And then, if the palate (the roof of the mouth) is coming together and “zipping up the middle” – if that doesn’t zip up completely, then you also have a cleft in the palate.”

There is no definitive reason why some babies are born with a cleft, and often no family history. Noah’s mother Jaimee was nervous about the surgery, but Dr. Rozelle helped put her at ease. A big part of their reassurance was the presence of an entire cleft team of doctors at DMC Children’s, who would be devoted to Noah’s long-term care. “We have everybody right here,” says Dr. Rozzelle. “I’ve got a cardiologist who can see the baby right away. We have the ENT doctor; we have the cranial facial orthodontists, who are able to give the skilled care immediately.”

A team of experts is important; clefts can affect breathing, eating, speech, dental development and even hearing. So by the time Noah reached three months of age, his parents were prepared, and so was he. (Waiting until the patient is at least three months helps them better tolerate the anesthesia.)

During the two-hour surgery, Dr. Rozzelle meticulously brings Noah’s lip together and repairs his nose to eliminate flattening. When complete, the difference is startling: Noah’s face is dramatically corrected – his upper lip is pulled together, and his nose looks much more like it ought to.

Noah will come back for follow-up appointments for a while, and he will face future surgery correct the cleft in his palate. He’ll stay in close contact with Dr. Rozzelle and her team at DMC Children’s for years to come, but is well on his way to a great improvement in quality of life.

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