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news News Friday, October 23, 2020 Friday, October 23, 2020 4:29 PM - Friday, October 23, 2020 4:29 PM

Gabriel’s newfound confidence

Gabriel’s newfound confidence

Born with a cleft lip and palate, Gabriel faced limitations from the very start of his life. He had difficulty breathing, with one nostril congested and the other completely blocked. His sense of smell was severely affected. Eating was a struggle. His speech was significantly delayed, and when he did speak, he didn’t sound like other children.

Gabriel’s mother, Marylin, was immediately concerned about her infant son’s future. “I instantly thought of all the things he would have to deal with.”

Physical limitations weren’t Marylin’s only concern. Both mom and son soon experienced a deep sense of isolation. Children and adults would point and stare. Gabriel was bullied frequently for how he looked or talked. He avoided other kids.

“The bullying was something I really feared,” said Marylin. “I didn’t know what to do. I felt alone, too.”

Everything changed when Gabriel was referred to the cleft lip and palate clinic at the Springfield Shriners Hospital. He immediately saw others, including older children, with the same condition. Marylin felt a sense of hope for the future for the first time since her son’s birth. “Once we arrived at Shriners Hospital, I never felt alone again,” she said.

Through surgeries and rehabilitation, Gabriel quickly began to realize dramatic improvement in his eating, speaking and breathing. “It felt amazing to finally breathe and smell things,” he said. “It was like discovering I had a new sense.”

Now 19 and attending college, Gabriel feels neither limited nor isolated.

“I have a lot of confidence in the way I look now,” he said. “My life is fantastic.”

Marylin is overcome with gratitude for Shriners Hospital, not just for the care, but for how the team has helped change her outlook on life.

“I don’t feel alone anymore. Looking at Gabriel now and knowing all that he’s been through, he gives me strength that everything’s going to be okay.”

Gabriel at 19