My husband Kyle and I were delighted when we learned we were pregnant with our first child. At the time, I was a registered nurse working in the pediatric emergency department and I had just enrolled in school to become an adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. At our 20-week anatomy scan we learned our son; Reid would be born with a bilateral cleft lip/palate. Initially we felt devastated – we were heartbroken thinking about the number of surgeries he would have to endure, and we worried about bullying as he got older, especially in the age of social media where others can be so cruel online. However, when Reid was born, we fell deeper in love with him than we ever thought possible, and we knew immediately he was stronger than we imagined. Reid was born with a bilateral cleft lip and alveolar gum notch, but his palate was intact. Even so, at age 5 he has undergone 4 surgical procedures and years of speech therapy as he continues to have issues with velopharyngeal incompetence.

Once Reid was born, I knew my calling was to help other parents and children, so I changed my degree focus and in 2018 I became a certified pediatric nurse practitioner. I joined the department of Pediatric Otolaryngology at Children’s Hospital of Georgia at Augusta University, where Reid has had all his surgeries, and also took on the role of co-team coordinator for our cleft and craniofacial team. We used the ACPA resources to help us prepare for our son’s birth. Now I share the same resources that helped us with my patients and their families. The greatest joy of my professional career has been walking with other children and parents through their cleft journey and having the opportunity for Reid to meet other children with cleft and craniofacial differences.

Reid frequently tells others that he was born different, and his cleft lip makes him special. He is very proud of his unique differences, and I hope he will always feel that sense of pride.

-Krystal Oestreich, DNP, CPNP-PC