Columbus family starts fundraiser for infant's cleft palate surg - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Columbus family starts fundraiser for infant's cleft palate surgery

A 4-month-old baby needs surgery and the family is asking for the community's help.

Joseph Pate was born with a soft palate and cleft lip. Experts recommend children born with cleft palates have surgery before they reach their first birthday. 

Stevi Pate, Joseph’s mother, says that her son’s surgery is scheduled for Dec. 3, and the family still needs to raise $18,000.

Stevi says although she and her husband have medical insurance, the surgery falls through a "loop hole." Since no doctors in the Columbus area provide surgery for cleft palates, they would need to take their son to Atlanta to have the procedure done.

However, Atlanta is considered “out of network” so their insurance will only cover 40 percent of their expenses, leaving them with up to $20,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for Joseph's surgery and follow up appointments.

It was during Stevi’s 20th week ultrasound that she first learned her son had abnormal developments.

“I was upset, I felt like it was my fault like I had done something to cause it," Stevi said. 

According to the CDC, cleft lip and cleft palate can be caused by changes in genes, smoking, diabetes, medication taken during pregnancy or certain foods or beverages the mother consumes while she’s pregnant.

The quality of Joseph’s life will improve drastically after he has this surgery, his mother says.   

“Currently, he sleeps in a bassinet next to our bed because he has a hole in his soft palate as well as the cleft lip. So if he is laying on his back and throws up or has any reflux, it comes out of his nose so we worry about him choking," Stevi says.

Because of Joseph's soft palate he has little to no suction ability. Doctors have ordered him to use a special bottle just so he can eat. The bottle is called a Haberman bottle and allows the milk to easily flow without Joseph sucking, which is something the Pate family says would be corrected in their son's surgery.

In the United States, about 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate, according to CDC statistics.

Children with cleft palates suffer from a variety of health issues throughout their entire life including ear infections, speech, breathing and hearing issues and problems with their teeth.

Even if a child has surgery, they may need additional surgeries later in life. The CDC reports that children who do not have surgery tend to struggle with low self esteem.

Stevi says although low self esteem is not an issue right now because Joseph is just a baby, she is concerned he could be teased in school if he does not have the surgery. 

“I couldn’t imagine a child having to go to school with other kids, because you know kids can be mean, even unintentionally asking questions, especially with something on your face. Everyone is going to see it," Stevi says. 

So far the Pate family has raised $1,380 and with more than $18,000 to go, Stevi says anything helps.

“There are no words to thank someone for the love and generosity that that is doing, " Stevie says."This is something that is bigger than us. This is for someone who is just a perfect little baby and does not even really know what’s going on. It would mean the world not just to us but to him because he would be forever healed.”

Donations can be made on the family's Gofundme account.

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