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Amber's Story

When we found out

View Amber's photo gallery

Every parent gets excited at their anomaly scan and possibly finds out the sex of their baby - we found out that our baby had a cleft lip, possibly palate and gum. We felt our world had been turned upside down and questioned why us??

From the date of our scan to the confirmation appointment at the Radcliffe we had time to do some research as we were very uneducated on what a cleft lip/palate was. We found information on the Radcliffe & CLAPA websites and found it helped us to be prepared with what we were dealing with.

The Cleft Team got involved and Jane Sibley saw us after our confirmation scan and explained what cleft lip & palate was. We asked all the questions that were in our heads at the time. We knew we were in safe hands with the Cleft team and they were there to help whenever we needed them.

We opted to have an MRI Scan at 34 weeks to detect if they could see if the gum & palate were affected. The results came back saying they could only detect the lip. This was a huge weight off our shoulders as we were worrying how Amber would feed if the palate & gum were affected.

As the weeks went by Simon and I were getting very anxious as to how severe the cleft lip was going to be; I don't think anything can really prepare you. We were there for each other and talked about it together, which I think is what helped us deal with it.

Amber's birth

Amber was born on Sunday 7th May 2006 and the first words Simon and I said to each other were "the lip is hardly noticeable" not "we have a daughter". The main concerns were over. She had a very small cleft lip, the gum and palate were not affected and Amber would be able to feed normally - no special bottles or teats.

Jane arrived at the hospital on the Sunday - her day off - just to meet Amber. Like we said all along we knew we would be looked after by the team.

Amber came home and met her big brother Connor who adores her. He is very protective over his sister and loves her dearly.

Jane came to our house to visit Amber when she was 2 weeks old, and came with the news that we had a date for the operation. This felt a bit strange when we were told, I think it was knowing that we now had the next stage to go through. We knew Amber would be in safe hands and it was a small operation but it's the thought of your child going through surgery.

The operation

Amber met Mr Goodacre and the team when she was 3 weeks old and he discussed the operation with us. This was scheduled for 11th July when Amber would be 9 weeks old.

We started to use Orthodontic Teats as Amber was getting a small amount of air past the lip and she was suffering with Colic. Jane was always at the other end of the phone to offer advice and reassure us that we were doing well. At 7 weeks old we started to get past the Colic stage and Amber was starting to coo and smile at us which was brilliant.

The day before the operation was a very emotional day, everyone was phoning to send Amber their best wishes but I was finding it hard to keep my emotions inside. We spent most the night preparing bags to take to the hospital and not a lot of sleep was had.

We arrived at the Radcliffe Infirmary at 7.30am on Tuesday 11th July. We were shown to our bed and got Amber ready in her gown. The doctors came round and then we made our way to theatre at 8.30. I was very tearful so Simon took Amber into theatre as I couldn't watch them with the gas mask. He was very upset when he came out. While Amber was in theatre we went off into Oxford and got breakfast but the time still went slowly.

After the operation

We were told after a few hours that Amber was ready to be collected. The walk to Recovery seemed like forever, we were trying to picture what she would look like now as we were so used to the cleft. Our little girl looked so different - the clever hands of a Surgeon had done the work nature had failed to do.

We got Amber back to the ward and she took a feed straight away. I was so pleased that she took a bottle as I thought she may have gone onto a drip. Amber did well through the night and fed well. We were seen by the doctors the following morning and they all said how well the operation had gone and how well she looked. They gave us the news that we could go home after lunch, this was a great relief.

Amber's first night at home went well, she was in a bit of pain but lots of cuddles helped no end, she slept very well and had her feeds as normal. We applied the Vaseline to her lip to keep the stitches moist, but found it hard to keep her hands out the way and ended up having to re-apply it. We persevered as we knew we had to do it for her recovery.

We took Amber to have her stitches out a week after the operation. That week flew by. She was really good and Jane didn't have to sedate her. Amber had a feed and the stitches were taken out while she took her milk. It looked amazing, you couldn't see the full effect before as the stitches were there but when they had gone it looked superb.

Sponsored Tandem Skydive

After going through pregnancy, birth and the operation, we decided we wanted to do something for the Radcliffe as a Thank You for all the help they gave us with Amber. A friend who is also going to be Amber's Godfather, Alan Philbey, agreed to do a Sponsored Tandem Skydive for us. Alan's jump took place on 15th July. Debbie's work, QEK Global Solutions Ltd held a Casual day & cake day to raise money also. It just makes us feel we have given something back to the people who have really helped us through difficult times.

Read Amber's story in the Oxford Mail

Thank you

We cannot thank Mr Goodacre and his team enough for what they have done for us and I hope writing our story about Amber will help other parents going through what we have been through and make it a little bit more reassuring.

Debbie, Simon, Connor & Amber Ford

Amber
Connor and Amber
Alan's sponsored skydive
Amber sleeping
Amber's first family portrait