Dr. Niyant Patel walked into the pre-surgical room 10 minutes early in his charcoal colored scrubs, relaxed and with a smile on his face. “How ya feeling this morning, doc?” my husband asked him. “I’m feeling great. I slept good last night. I’m here early…you ready to get started?”
It was 7 a.m. and we were preparing to hand our little boy over to him for a 7-8 hour lip repair and rhinoplasty. This was our first experience with surgery on a child. We had only met this doctor 6 short months ago, and, yet, here we were…trusting him wholeheartedly. This surgery would give Rhodes a new smile. It would reshape his nose and lips. It was the first of (likely) many on this cleft journey.
How was he so relaxed? How did he seem so comfortable? I suppose for him it’s just another day at the office. An 8-hour day of work – standing on his feet, tools in hand, leaned over a tiny infant’s mouth, carrying the weight of his physical appearance and future self-esteem on his every cut, move, and suture.
It was just another day at the office and also a day not like any other as he had personally prepared for THIS child, for THIS procedure. While this type of day was familiar to him, Rhodes was not just another day at the office to this doctor. To this Plastic Surgeon, Rhodes was a life, a soul…touched by his God-given gift and abilities…forever changed in his hands and under his watch.
Plastic surgeons sometimes get a bad rep – tied to elective surgeries, puffed up egos, and Botox – not this doctor. Not this Cleft Team. This doctor is a superhero in scrubs: a humble, compassionate, life-changing super star.
We are so incredibly thankful for Dr. Patel. We have witnessed first-hand the incredible ways the Lord uses him in this world and we are so grateful to have him caring for Rhodes.
Prior to surgery, Dr. Kochenour met with us every Thursday morning for 15 weeks to re-shape and adjust Rhodes’ NAM (nasoalveolar molding). It is an appliance that is fit to the baby’s mouth and gradually molds the nasal cartilages, premaxilla (skin between nose and lip), and alveolar ridges (basically the gum line that is displaced) into the correct position prior to surgery.
Dr. Kochenour patiently and compassionately taught me how to tape, adjust, and fit that darned thing into my sweet boy’s mouth. He was available at all times, offering us his personal contact information so that he could be reached with questions. No question was too small and no concern was too trivial.
NAM can also help to eliminate the need for some future surgeries. Our son will likely need many more surgeries, but the use of the NAM has been proven to decrease the overall number of surgeries that follow. Kiddos with a bilateral cleft lip and palate like our son tend to have flatter noses…the NAM stretches and molds the nose cartilage to give it shape and projection, too.
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