Thomas Brown - Patient Story - Cleft and Craniofacial Center at CHKDWhen Thomas Brown was born in March, he had some breathing issues, but within an hour or two, he seemed to be doing fine.

He was less than 12 hours old, though, when a pediatrician noticed he had a cleft palate and arranged for an occupational therapist to help him with feeding issues.

Thomas went home after three days in the hospital, and a week later his parents, Bryana and Auston Brown of Virginia Beach, took him to the Cleft and Craniofacial Center at CHKD.

Dr. Weston Santee, a plastic and oral maxillofacial surgeon, diagnosed Thomas with Pierre Robin Sequence, a condition in which the jaw is unusually small, causing the tongue to fall back toward his throat, which in turn obstructed his upper airway. Like many other Infants with the condition, he had an opening in the roof of his mouth, which is called a cleft palate.

Dr. Santee performed a surgical procedure called “mandibular distraction,” in which an incision is made and the jawbone separated to allow a distraction device to be attached to the bone on both sides of the jaw. The device has two screws that are turned to further separate the bone after surgery for a period of 15 days.

Since the surgery in May, the procedure has made a noticeable difference in how Thomas looks, and also improved his ability to eat, breathe, and sleep. In August, the mandible distraction devices will be removed. Thomas will have a cleft palate repair around the age of 1.

“There is still a long road ahead of us, but we are very thankful for the changes surgery has brought,” said his mother, Bryana Brown.