Born with a soft cleft palate, her condition wasn’t picked up until she was due to leave South Tipperary General Hospital with her mother Jessica three days after her birth.
“She had no suction so she wasn’t drinking. We were preparing to go home when a doctor noticed a hole at the back of her throat. I was terrified,” Jessica said.
Her daughter was whisked to the special care unit where she spent five days and where staff showed Jessica had to use a special bottle to ensure her baby could feed. Within two weeks she was in Temple Street.
Jessica said there was no history of cleft palate — a split in the roof of the mouth that leaves a hole between the nose and the mouth — in her or her partner’s family.
The defect meant milk was coming back out her nose when she drank. It also made her more susceptible to choking.
Ellie, now aged 2, underwent successful surgery in Temple St on January 5 this year. While she can eat “everything” now, she requires ongoing speech and language therapy because a cleft palate can cause speech difficulties. She said “Mama” for the first time on her first birthday, Jessica said.
Ellie, from Clonmel, is just one of appproximately 120 children with cleft lip and/or palate operated on annually at Temple St. Grateful for the help Ellie received, Jessica and her daughter are helping launch the Lemonade & Lollipops appeal which takes place at all 149 Tesco stores on Saturday next.
Customers will be invited to enjoy a cup of lemonade and a lollipop between 11am and 5pm in return for a small donation to the children’s hospital.The appeal aims to raise €100,000 to buy a special microscope that will be of significant benefit in cleft palate and speech operations.
“This microscope will be state-of-the-art and should serve us for many years. It is badly needed, as our old microscope, now some 25 years old, is simply not up to the more modern approaches of reconstruction,” said Temple St plastic surgeon Dr Christoph Theopold.
Although the microscope will be predominantly used for cleft surgery, Temple St intends to use it for other paediatric plastic surgery operations including surgery to restore a smile in children with either congenital or post-tumour facial paralysis.