Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital turns cleft patients into photo models

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Whitney Hutchens was 19 weeks pregnant when she and her husband got the news.

Their baby's facial structure didn't close up completely while in the womb, so he would be born with a cleft lip and palate.

He would require multiple surgeries, starting at only a few months old and continuing until adulthood.

"He just looked perfect to me," Hutchens said. "That big smile, the original smile, just melted my heart. I think that's something that people talk about when you look at your baby that you just immediately fall in love."

Nearly one out of every 700 kids has the birth defect, but many are teased, ridiculed by others who don't understand it.

"They're resilient. It's amazing. Think of the minor inconveniences in our own lives that get us down," said Dr. Matthew Greives, a pediatric plastic surgeon at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Dr. Greives organized a gallery at the hospital featuring portraits of cleft clinic patients. It's titled, "Smiles are Contagious."

"If you look closely, you can see a scar but nobody sees that," he explained. "They see how bright their eyes are, how excited they are to be in a photo shoot, and how special they feel that somebody wants to take their picture."

Turns out, a perfect smile has less to do with your facial features and everything to with the soul behind them.

"Their whole face lights up," Hutchens said. "They're just so expressive and that's something that is extra special about them."

If you'd like to see the gallery go HERE.
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