Cleft and Craniofacial Patients Celebrate Milestones


The instant that Sabrina Trautman was born in 2010, the head of the neonatal team at a Coral Springs hospital told her mom and dad that Sabrina would have trouble eating, drinking and even speaking due to the opening on one side of her lip and inside of her upper jaw. The birth defect known as a unilateral cleft lip and palate, is one of various facial anomalies that can lead to additional developmental complications.

The medical team immediately recommended that Sabrina be referred to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. Less than a week later they met with the Cleft and Craniofacial Center team.

Three months later little Sabrina had her first surgery. Today, Sabrina is a healthy and active 7 year old who on Sunday, January 22, was excited to have her tiny face painted as a jaguar. She spent the day roaring, playing, running and enjoying a host of activities with roughly 100 other patients and families of the center for the 17th Annual Winter Picnic at TY Park in Hollywood.

Organized by the medical team, staff and volunteers, the picnic that welcomed children ranging from newborns to teenagers, has become a tradition since the Center’s inception 2001. The picnic served up a day of hot dogs, hamburgers, snow cones, bounce houses, arts and crafts, and more for kids, while parents got a chance to connect with many to share experiences, concerns and stories of hope and recovery.

kids“The picnic is an opportunity for patients, their families and the medical staff to celebrate their progress in a non-clinical and fun atmosphere,” said Bobby Brasher, Program Coordinator for the JDCH Cleft and Craniofacial Center. “It also gives the children time to spend with each other and be around others their age that have had similar life experiences and who have similar conditions.”
Sabrina has gone through 10 surgeries and like many children who attended, she got to spend the day just having fun with mom and dad.   

“Today is very important for all of us because at the end of the day, it brings everybody together for a fun day with the kids minus the stares from people who don’t understand, a day of relaxation and support for parents where you are not sitting in a hospital room worried about the outcome or next surgery that is in line,” said Sabrina’s mom Shannon. “Bottom line it is time with others where you can find support and who can remind you that you have something to celebrate - your child’s recovery and continued development. We look forward to this each year.”

For teenagers like 15-year-old Marissa Withers, who traveled from Port St. Lucie with her parents and younger brother, it was a chance to have fun and step out of her typical shy personality as well as serve as a role model for younger kids.

“This was a good day for me because it’s been very hard to make friends,” she added. Marissa explained how she has been unable to attend school regularly since she was 8 years old because of the many surgeries she needed to construct her nasal cavities and her jaw due to a cleft palette. “I hope that today, I can also bring hope to the other little children and their families.”

boytiedyeThe JDCH Cleft and Craniofacial Center is a leading craniofacial center in the nation fully accredited by the State of Florida Department of Health and the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association to provide optimal care and improve the quality of life for patients and families of children with facial differences.  It is led by a 14-member multidisciplinary team of physicians, surgeons, nurses and therapists that provide specialized services including speech therapy, child psychology, plastic surgery, pediatrics, genetics, otolaryngology, audiology and more.

“This event is very rewarding for us,” said Roman Yusupov, MD, Medical Director of the Craniofacial Center at JDCH who specializes in pediatric genetics. “We work with patients from the day they’re born until they go off to college sometimes,” said Brasher. “They become a part of our JDCH family in that our team members are all essential in helping these beautiful young children and families succeed and move through life. We do it together and it takes a village as they say.”