A mum is raising money for charity after her brave little girl was born with a cleft lip and palate.
Five-year-old Evie Ellam had to have an operation at Leeds General Infirmary when she was just three months old and another when she was nine months to correct the problem.
Babies born with the condition have a gap in their upper lip and/or the roof of their mouth. This can result in feeding, speech and hearing problems, and frequent ear infections.
Evie, of Norristhorpe, Liversedge, faces more surgery on her gums when she is eight years old and extensive dental work.
Her mum, Mrs Helena Ellam, said Evie had reacted brilliantly to everything she had been through. “Her case was quite severe, and when she was a baby I had to feed her with special bottles to squeeze milk into her mouth because she had no suction. But she recovered from the surgery very quickly and now looks fantastic,” she said.
“When she was a baby she didn’t really know much about what was happening, but last year she asked if she had a flat nose because another girl had said something to her. I was honest with her and said this had been caused by her cleft lip and palate, but told her she was a very lucky girl and there were children with far bigger problems than a flat nose.”
Mrs Ellam said they had been to see a surgeon about her next operation. Evie, a pupil at Hipperholme Grammar Junior School, was a little apprehensive and told her parents she didn’t want to have it done.
“We said we would take her somewhere special afterwards and she would be given presents like she was at Christmas and on her birthday, and she was swayed by this,” she added.
Mrs Ellam is now a fundraiser for Operation Smile, an international medical charity which provides surgery for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities.
She said that in developing countries some children were kept hidden and not allowed to go to school, so Operation Smile offered education to prevent this happening. Also one in 10 with the condition died before their first birthday if they did not have surgery.
Television’s Dragons’ Den star Duncan Bannatyne is an ambassador for Operation Smile, which has provided hundreds of thousands of free operations. He and his daughter, also called Evie, have volunteered on an Operation Smile Medical Mission at a hospital in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Mrs Ellam and her husband James, who also have a 12-week-old son Billy, are playing their part at home by raising cash for Operation Smile. Mrs Ellam is organising a ball at Bertie’s in Elland on Saturday, September 24, from 6.30pm. Tickets for the event are £37 per person for a three-course meal and live band with dancing. There are 10 tickets left, and anyone who would like one can email Mrs Ellam at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The event will be the third she has held, and she has so far raised more than £14,000 for the charity. In recognition of this, she was invited to London by Operation Smile to a special ceremony where she received an Events Organiser Award.
The proceeds from the ball this year will be split between Operation Smile and Kirkwood Hospice at Dalton as Mrs Ellam’s late mum, Mrs Pauline Jackson, was cared for by the hospice after she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bowel cancer.
Cleft lip and palate facts
• A cleft is a gap or split in the upper lip and/or roof of the mouth (palate). It is present from birth.
• The gap is there because parts of the baby’s face didn’t join together properly during development in the womb.
• A cleft lip and palate is the most common facial birth defect in the UK, affecting around one in every 700 babies.
• Problems that can occur include difficulty feeding, and hearing, dental and speech problems.
• The exact cause is often unclear. It’s very unlikely to have been the result of anything the parents did or didn’t do during pregnancy.
• The cleft is usually treated with surgery. Other treatments, such as speech therapy or dental care, may be needed for associated symptoms.