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Leah's Story

Our "Cleft" Baby

View Leah's photo gallery

When we were told that our baby had a cleft our first reaction was disbelief and shock. Our friend who was also pregnant had been told that her baby had a cleft only a few weeks before, so we couldn't believe that 'lightning could strike twice' as it were! Anyway, we went home and after a few tears decided to have a look at the CLAPA website. The information we read was very reassuring and the photos of babies who had clefts and had then been 'repaired' were incredible. We felt a little better.

A couple of days after the scan we had a call from Jane Sibley at The Radcliffe Infirmary. We had long chat and she left me feeling quite positive. One of the questions I asked Jane was "Will my baby be 'normal'?" Jane reassured me that apart from the obvious facial anomaly, yes my baby would be like any other. We arranged that we would come to Oxford to meet the Cleft Specialists the following week - a meeting which ultimately reassured us that all would be fine. We saw more photographs of children who had their clefts corrected and they all looked absolutely fantastic. In fact, at one point I asked Debbie Clarke (who we met that day), were they the same children, they looked that good!!

Throughout the rest of my pregnancy I talked to many friends and colleagues and was surprised to learn that many of them knew people who had had clefts. All the messages were positive. Peter and I also made a point of talking to people about our baby and explaining as much as possible about the cleft lip/palate scenario.

Leah Ellen Garnett finally arrived on 19 March 2004 at 12.08am after a 4 hour labour. I had gas and air as pain relief and had Leah in the birthing pool... a wonderful experience. She weighed in at a healthy 8lb 5.5 oz, with masses of hair and enormous blue eyes. She was truly beautiful with a cute little cleft lip. We also learned that she did not have a cleft palate - that was intact. Debbie came to visit us in hospital a few hours after Leah was born to check her lip. It was lovely to introduce our little person to one of the team who would be responsible for Leah being 'mended'!

We visited Mr Goodacre, the Consultant Plastic Surgeon, when Leah was about a week old and he explained the surgery to us. This was scheduled for 22nd June 2004 when Leah would be about 3 months old.

Whenever we took Leah out and about we would encounter people who initially were curious about the new baby - strangers who had no idea she had a cleft. Obviously once I showed Leah to them they would notice she looked a little different and so to save them feeling awkward, I would always say 'This is Leah, as you can see she has a cleft lip which will be repaired soon'. This would then very often lead on to a conversation about what it involved etc. We were always very positive and proud of our little girl and only too willing to talk to people about her.

Anyway, Leah had her operation to repair her lip on 22nd June. It was a tough time for us all but the team at The Radcliffe are incredible and made us all feel very secure. Mr Goodacre finished off what Mother Nature didn't get quite right and he made our daughter even more beautiful. Leah came home after about 3 days in hospital and healed very quickly.

We feel quite 'honoured' to have a baby who had a cleft. We are fiercely proud of her and we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Oxford team for their care and support.

Theresa, Peter and Leah Garnett


September 2004 - Peter completes a sponsored cycle ride from John O'Groats to Lands End

On 22nd August Peter began a sponsored cycle ride from John O'Groats to Lands End finishing 4th September. Peter's sponsorship raised an incredible £5000 for The Spires Cleft Centre, CLAPA and Zurich Cares.

Peter's cycle diary (PDF file; 701 KB)

Congratulations Peter, and thank you everyone for your support.

January 2005 - The Garnett family raise £2000 for Cleft Research at the Radcliffe Infirmary

The Cleft Team would like to say a huge thank you to Peter, Theresa and Leah Garnett for the £2000 they raised for Cleft Research at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. They are also donating some toys and cot mobiles for the Leopold Children's Ward, where Leah had her surgery.

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Leah at 2 months old
Leah with hospital staff
Leah with dog-dog