With babies like Mason Calhoun, born with a cleft palate, some might see an imperfection, even a disfigurement, but not their mamas.
“All I felt is he’s adorable, I love him. He’s my baby,” describe Mason’s mother, Delaney Calhoun, of the moment she first saw Mason’s face.
One registered nurse at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Colorado Springs doesn’t see an imperfection either. In fact, Amber Kerr sees quite the opposite.
“I personally feel kids with clefts are like the most beautiful kids, not in spite of the cleft,” said Kerr. “I think the whole thing is cute. I think they’re so cute!”
So naturally, Kerr works in the cleft clinic.
“I tell families that before surgery your baby is super cute and they will still be super cute,” explained Kerr.
She wants nothing more than for others to see what she does.
“One of the things I think it’s hardest to hear is when people say things like, ‘beauty is only skin deep’ or ‘there’s more than what’s on the outside,’ because what you’re implying is that what’s on the outside is not super awesome.”
Kerr has always dreamed of being a nurse and working on a cleft team.
She pulled out a photo album to show why. She was born with a cleft, as was her little brother, 15 years later.
Now, parents of Amber’s patients call her a godsend.
“She’s been wonderful,” said Delaney.
“She’s been fantastic every step of the way.”
She guides and comforts them. She reminds them a cleft has no impact on their brains or their hearts. She proves that a cleft has no bearing on what they can achieve.
“Your child can do all the things that they want to do,” she smiled.
She recently secured funding for Cleft Camp, a twice annual camp in Breckenridge for children and teens with a cleft.
They’ll get one-on-one skiing lessons. They’ll go hiking and rock climbing, but the most impactful part of this experience is the sharing circle, where they can talk about their struggles and their successes.
“It’s a very powerful thing that most kids never forget and it helps them get through those tough times when they go back to their lives when they’re the only person in their school and sometimes in their city that has a cleft.”
Here’s what she wants these kids to walk away with:
“I want them to know that I see the greatness in them, that they are going to do awesome things with their lives and that the things they think right now are like really hard, that’s what’s going to make them into the great people that they are. I see that in them.”
So maybe a cleft does affect your heart after all. Maybe it makes it just a little bit bigger.