Face the Future Foundation
I recently attended the Face the Future Foundation’s annual event in Chicago. Seeing firsthand the fantastic work that’s been done by the team at UIC has inspired me to write a few words given my own history.
To give you a brief account of my story, I was born in 1984 in London with several complex issues – the two major ones being a severe bilateral cleft lip and palate, craniosynostosis and hypertelorism. There were other issues too and it was this unique combination that left the doctors struggling to actually find what the condition was.
My first surgeries happened at 3 months old to correct the cleft, and the first major operation was at 6 months old at Great Ormond Street Hospital after it became apparent that I had hydrocephalus due to cranial pressure. Despite the success of the surgery, I contracted meningitis a few months later. Thanks to the quick thinking of my parents, I made a full recovery.
Over the next few years, various smaller operations were done in preparation for a massive craniofacial procedure, which despite the risks involved, had to be done.
Because of my parent’s never-ending perseverance, the pioneer of craniofacial surgery himself, Dr Paul Tessier, performed this operation. It was only when I grew up that I realized the significant role Dr Tessier played in my life– he laid the foundations for the future operations.
Following a few further operations over the next few years, including maxillofacial surgery performed by Dr. Jean-Francois Tulasne in Paris, the next stage of major reconstructive surgery brought us to America in 2002 – to Chicago to be exact.
Dr Gary Burget, together with Dr Rob Walton, operated on me over a period of about 5 years to reconstruct my nose.
In 2005, we travelled to Los Angeles where Dr Henry Kawamoto carried out another major procedure to lower my eyebrows and hairline – another of the abnormalities I was born with. A few smaller surgeries followed in the years after, but the one by Dr Kawamoto was the last of the major procedures – I was 21 when he operated on me. When Dr. Tessier first met me , as a 5 year old, he had predicted that I would be undergoing surgery at least until my 21st year.
The results are remarkable and I feel very fortunate – firstly for having parents who stopped at nothing to get the best for me and as a result of that, to have been operated on by some of the very best surgeons in the world.
My family and I left London in 2010 to move to Greece where we are originally from. Since last year, I’ve been living in Los Angeles – somewhere I wanted to live, at least for a while, since we came here for surgery.
By my own admission, I haven’t done enough to support causes like Face the Future and having now attended their event, I told Dr Cohen that I wanted to do my bit by writing this for parents whose children might face similar challenges to the ones I did.
As someone who has been through more than 40 procedures, I hope this will help you get through the difficult stages of any future surgeries you have to watch your children go through. It will all be worth it in the end – especially with the team of surgeons you have.
My admiration for people who dedicate their lives and careers to helping others grows more and more, the older I get.
At home in London, we had a long table in our hallway. My Dad used to use it as a way of showing me how far we’d come. I hope you can all use a similar analogy as your kids grow up. In the end, all those stays in hospital will become a distant memory.
Christian John Hadjipateras