Raising a Child with a Severe Cleft Palate

Lacey and Chris Buchanan were heartbroken when they were told shortly after an 18-week ultrasound that their baby boy would be born with a cleft palate. Born via a planned C-section, their son, Christian, entered the world with a cleft so severe that his eyes didn't form completely, rendering him blind. Though they received unwelcome stares and even cruel comments via social media, the Buchanans remained positive, and became Internet sensations when they posted a video on YouTube to share their story.  They say that while his disabilities may be inconvenient, they never want Christian — who they lovingly call "Superman" — to feel like he can't do what he wants to do.

“Christian, he’s meant for a little bit different journey than most people in life, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just different,” Lacey says.

OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Ashton describes
how a cleft palate occurs during fetal development.

Meet Christian,
and hear how his parents' unwavering support has turned a
difficult situation into an inspiration.

Cleft palate is the fourth most common birth defect in the United States and affects one in 700 babies annually. Normally, the palate develops between the sixth and ninth week of pregnancy, as the primary and two secondary palates merge together to form the roof of the mouth and front of the mouth. When these segments do not merge completely, a cleft develops.

Christian developed a very rare type of cleft, called a Tessier cleft, which affects the bony areas of the face. There are currently only 58 cases of Tessier clefts worldwide. The exact cause of this type of deformity is unknown, though it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

According to Dr. Flores, Christian, now two years old, needs additional surgery to close the roof of his mouth, to enable him to eat and speak more easily, as well as further corrective facial surgeries throughout his life. But his parents say they will not force any unnecessary cosmetic surgeries on their son.

"We want to raise Christian to be confident, and to know that who he is, is not a mistake," Lacey explains.

Click here to donate to the Christian Buchanan Fund through the Dr. Phil Foundation.

Living with a cleft lip and palate
Cleft palate surgery explained