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news item News Friday, February 8, 2019 Friday, February 8, 2019 11:14 AM - Friday, February 8, 2019 11:14 AM

Shriners Hospitals for Children patient Alan reflects on excellent cleft lip and palate care

Alan, age 21, exudes confidence. After spending most of his life as a patient of Shriners Hospitals for Children, he hopes sharing his story will encourage others to never give up.

Finding compassionate care

Alan was born in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, with a cleft lip and palate. When he was about 3 months old, his family traveled from Mexico to Galveston, Texas, so he could start receiving care at the Shriners Hospital there. “Someone who lived in the United States had told my mom about this hospital that helps kids with different conditions,” Alan said. “We ended up calling an aunt of mine who knew a Shriner, and before you knew it, they helped me make it to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Galveston.”

The cleft lip and palate programs of Shriners Hospitals for Children, including the one at the Galveston location, take into consideration the ways the condition affects the patients’ hearing, speech, dental development, jaw growth, self-esteem and confidence. All these areas have been monitored throughout Alan’s life. When he was 4, he went through a formal speech evaluation and then a lip revision surgery. When 9, braces were applied to his teeth.

When the health care system moved the cleft lip and palate program from Galveston to the Houston Shriners Hospital, Alan started receiving care at that location. “I was about 10 or 11 when I first started coming to Houston,” Alan said. “I would never get bored when I came to the hospital; actually I would look forward to it.” He also said that as he grew up, there was a period of time when he began to feel insecure and was bullied due to his condition. He knew that when he was at Shriners Hospitals for Children, he was in a safe and encouraging environment.

At Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston, Alan had surgeries on his jaw and nose, as well as a lip revision and a dental implant. His progress was closely monitored, and he eventually went through speech therapy. “I do remember that around a year ago, I wore a halo for three months,” Alan said. The halo device was used to help align his jaw.

Worth the effort

While wearing the halo traction, Alan could only wear button-down shirts and eat food that was either liquid or ground up. “That was one of the toughest things,” he said. “I would crave other foods, but I knew that it would all pay off in the long run.”

When asked what he would tell other families undergoing something similar, Alan said, “I would tell other kids with a cleft lip that sometimes there may be a long path that you have to cross. However, in the end it is all worth it. My family sacrificed many things and put a big effort in getting me to the Shriners Hospitals and helping me be what I am today.”

Alan is now a university student in Mexico, studying communications. He is also interested in politics and has many goals, including potentially becoming an ambassador for the Houston Shriners Hospital.

Alan as a baby and adult