Natalie’s Story: An Eighteen Year Journey of Transformation

When Natalie was born with a cleft lip and palate, her mother cried, not knowing what was wrong with her baby or what to expect for her new girl’s future. The doctors, however, knew exactly what to do: they referred them to the Craniofacial Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Today, Natalie is a thriving 17-year-old: an athlete, a member of the student council, and a prospective advertising major at ISU. The road there has not been easy, however. When she was a newborn, she underwent a lip repair surgery. When she was just three months old, she had nose surgery, followed by palate surgery and two bone grafts. Constant speech therapy, orthodontia, and corrective surgeries to her face have forced her to find superhuman strength within herself, facing down her trials while growing into the confident young woman she is today.

It was often difficult. In the early days, she would cry when she went to the Center, scared of the confusing enigma of anesthesia before her many operations. The nurses and doctors, however, always made her feel at home, telling her that everything was going to be alright. Through all her years of treatments, the Center’s staff has made sure that she knew she was normal, that all her trials would lead to a brighter future.

Now on the cusp of adulthood, Natalie has turned her efforts towards helping other kids get the same life-changing experience that she had at the Center. From the supportive contacts her parents made in the early years to the psychological counseling that has helped her deal with the difficulties of growing up in the face of adversity, Natalie knows how important the Center is to kids like her.