Now 5 years old and getting ready to take on school, Karina Euteneier has a personality and smile that lights up a room. She is determined, confident, sharp and can educate anyone about the world of famous Disney princesses. Karina’s journey wasn’t always easy though, and has involved a true family effort.
When her mom, Panagiota, was 20 weeks pregnant she first learned of Karina’s cleft lip/palate diagnosis. With two young children (Nicola, 2 and Melina, 3) already at home, the diagnosis was a shock. “It was very overwhelming. I was in denial for a little bit.” Panagiota recalls.
However, Karina’s early diagnosis resulted in a well-coordinated process of consultations with various specialists and a treatment plan being put in place for her before she was even born, giving Karina’s parents confidence their baby would be in good hands.
Panagiota recalls the options that were available for Karina’s initial treatment. One of them was non-surgical Nasoalveolar molding, or NAM as it’s more often referred to. The NAM device is created for the newborn and the procedure starts in the first week of life. The device is worn 24 hours a day and gently directs the growth of the upper jaw and gums while improving the shape and position of the nose. The intention of the NAM molding was to hopefully limit future surgeries. “I wanted the best for my baby.” Panagiota says. “And I was super lucky to have my family’s help, and support networks available to me.” Fortunately, the NAM worked well for Karina.
At 6 months of age Karina had her first surgical procedure on her upper lip done at Regina General Hospital by Dr. Peter Chang and the Regina surgical team. This allowed part of the NAM to be removed. It was then followed by Karina’s second procedure at 12 months old to correct her palate. The next procedure will be a bone graft, sometime in 2020, to provide more structure for her palate and nose, but Panagiota is confident the procedure will be successful.
“Surgery for kids and adults can be a scary situation but Regina has so many amazing doctors and surgeons who allow children to live healthy, normal lives.”
Today Karina has no ongoing health issues but does visit the Cleft Lip & Palate Clinic at the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre once a year to see an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist, Plastic Surgeon, Speech Pathologist, Pediatric Dentist and Peanut, the therapy dog with a cleft palate of his own. The clinic provides these specialists all in one place, eliminating the need for multiple appointments or trips out of town.
“A cleft lip or palate is the most common birth defect in North America.” says Dino Sophocleous, president and CEO, Hospitals of Regina Foundation. “While Regina’s healthcare teams provide the best care possible, it is essential that we continue to invest in technology and our pediatric programs to support these children and their families, right here at home!”