When Liz and Dan Malarkey got pregnant in 2012 the last thing on their mind was that their baby would be born with a craniofacial deformity. At an ultrasound appointment in December of 2012 they were given the news that their baby girl, Lola, would be born with a cleft lip and possibly a cleft palate but they wouldn’t know until she was born.
Over the next 4 months the Malarkey’s did everything they could to prepare themselves and their families for the challenges Lola might face once she was born. They met with a cleft lip and palate clinic in Jacksonville, FL an hour from their home in St. Augustine. They felt as prepared as they could be. And when Lola was born on April 11, 2013 doctors confirmed she also had a cleft palate but they were ready for it. Of course that didn’t change the love they felt for their baby girl.
What the Malarkey’s were unprepared for was the extensive costs of Lola’s surgeries. Liz said, “Even with insurance, we quickly learned that the cost of surgery would wipe out our savings and then some, essentially bankrupting us.”
After weeks of thinking things over and debating what to do, a family friend told Liz about her father and grandfather who were Shriners. She went on to tell Liz about Shriners Hospital for Children and the expert care they provide for cleft lip and palate repair.
The Malarkey’s did their research on Shriners and made their first appointment at Shriners Hospital for Children – Cincinnati with Dr. Pan. They were pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and comfortable the staff, nurses and doctor made them feel.
Dan said they were extremely nervous but after their appointment with Dr. Pan and discussing his plan of care for Lola they were completely relieved. Like any parents, they wanted to best for their child and they finally found it.
Over the next year Lola had two surgeries to repair her cleft lip and palate. She has a slight scar that is often unnoticed on her lip. She’s now a vibrant, joyful 3 year old that enjoys the beach and being a princess.
When children born with a cleft lip and palate grow up, they may have issues with delayed speech and their teeth. Shriner’s will work with orthodontists and dentists to ensure Lola gets everything she needs.
Though she may need additional surgeries in the future, her parents know they are in the best capable hands for Lola’s care. “The support system they received from everyone in Cincinnati was more than they could have asked for, especially being so far from home,” said Dan.