Lots of love, teamwork led to triumphant smiles

by Cori Hilsgen – news@thenewsleaders.com

Local residents Mitchell Schleper and his sister, Haley, will initiate a smile when they find something intriguing, humorous or are just excited about something. For the Schlepers, that smile was formed through the efforts of surgeries, therapies and a lot of hard work.

Mitchell, 13, was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate, and Haley, 12, was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. Mitchell was diagnosed after birth and Haley was diagnosed before birth. They were two of the first patients to be treated by and to benefit from the CentraCare Cleft Palate Team.

Jeanie Schleper said necessary surgeries included a lip repair that was done when her children were between 3 and 4 months old. The timing of the lip-repair surgery depends on the weight of the child and how they eat. A palate repair was done at one year and bone grafting was done at seven years. For the bone grafting, a piece of bone is taken from the child’s hip and grafted in the child’s gum line to close the affected area.

Schleper said her children received braces, on the top of their mouths where it affected the cleft, before the bone grafting. Mitchell now has a full mouth of braces – his second experience with wearing them.

Mitchell and Haley also had ear tubes placed in their ears, requiring additional surgeries.

Jeanie Schleper said it’s also sometimes necessary to do a jaw alignment when patients are done growing.

She said her children did not require speech therapy, but many children do.

“You have a window of time when you can do the surgeries,” Jeanie said. “It’s a lot to take in.”

She said the first year is really difficult until the cleft lip and palate are repaired.

Schleper said having all the specialties in one area and working locally with the CentraCare team helped to reduce a stressful situation.

“The facial dental clinic at CentraCare, which is coordinated by Terri McCaffery, is very resourceful,” Schleper said. “Going to a facility where all the doctors are in one area lets you know when and where your next step will be for the care of your child. The team lets you know when your next procedure will take place. This way nothing gets missed.”

“After the first couple of surgeries in their first year, we felt our children were like any other children growing up,” Schleper said. “As of right now, we just wait for the team of doctors to advise us on future procedures.”

Mitchell is in eighth-grade and Haley is in sixth-grade at Kennedy Community School. Mitchell enjoys baseball, playing video games and fishing with Grandpa. Haley enjoys sports and dogs. She currently plays Junior Olympic volleyball and softball.

Their father, Roy, works for Cold Spring Granite Company and their mother, Jeanie, works for pediatric dentist Dr. Joseph Wenner.

Schleper said she was fortunate to be offered a position in Wenner’s office when the company she had been working for, Fingerhut, closed. Wenner had treated her children. Haley was only 6 days old when Wenner put a mouth appliance in her mouth.

The CentraCare Cleft Palate Team, which is a part of the St. Cloud Hospital Cleft and Craniofacial Center, was recently designated as a Cleft Palate Team by the Commission on Approval of Teams.

The four-year designation assures patients and families the team provides high-quality care and meets the standards established by the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association and Cleft Palate Foundation.

The center offers coordinated pediatric specialty care for children with facial differences. Many cases can be diagnosed prenatally in the perinatal clinic, at the time of birth or in infancy.

The center offers care for differences such as cleft lip or cleft palate, syndromes of the face, and head and trauma injuries. The center has used a multi-disciplinarian team approach and has provided diagnosis and treatment in a family-oriented program since 2000.

The team includes a clinical nurse specialist/coordinator; ear, nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist); geneticist; nurses; dietician; oral surgeon; speech therapist; pediatric dentist; orthodontist; physical therapist; plastic surgeon; pediatrician; primary-care doctor and psychologist.

“The providers were so reassuring,” Schleper said. “They gave us a timeline of what to expect and prepared us for what was happening right now. This helped us to not dwell on things or worry about the future.”

The center accepts referrals for evaluation, consultation and treatment of any child from prior to birth to age 21. For more information contact the center at 320-229-5139.

[/media-credit] Mitchell Schleper, 13, and his sister, Haley, 12 were two of the first patients to benefit from the care of the CentraCare Cleft Palate Team. Mitchell was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate and Haley was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate.





Cori Hilsgen

Cori Hilsgen


Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.
Cori Hilsgen
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