By Shelby Brooks
A Narre Warren North mother has been left “heart crushed” after her six month old baby’s cleft palate surgery was cancelled.
Baby Eleanor was due to undergo lip and nose surgery at Monash Children’s Hospital on 19 January but it was classed as elective surgery and cancelled due to the ongoing effects of the Omicron wave.
Mum Jaclyn Handasyde has started a change.org petition to the Premier of Victoria, begging for cleft palate surgeries to be reclassified.
It has already gained over 5,000 signatures.
“These children didn’t have a choice in how they were born, but as parents we had a choice to bring them into this world knowing these surgeries were available,” Ms Handasyde told the Gazette.
“It is heart crushing to find out that they are now not available until the government deems it necessary.
“There’s a big difference between living and thriving.”
Ms Handsayde was inspired by the push to reclassify IVF procedures and the support those parents received in their fight.
“I’m hoping they will allow all cleft surgeries to recommence as soon as possible,” Ms Handsayde said.
“When I saw the non-elective IVF campaign gain such traction I thought I needed to do something for cleft babies, babies that are already here.
“It’s the same as IVF, we’re on a timeline and there’s only a small window of time for these surgeries to be done.“
Eleanor was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate, making feeding, among many other issues, extremely difficult.
Children born with cleft lip and palates require many surgeries in the first 25 years of their lives, the first at six months old.
Due to the delay in Eleanor receiving her first surgery, that will then push the next surgery out by three months, Ms Handasyde said.
“At nine months they’re supposed to have soft tissue surgery to construct the roof of her mouth which means she can then breast feed because she’ll be able to suck,” she said.
“I’ve been told that won’t be done before she’s nearly one.
“Currently, feeding is very stressful and you have a lot of anxiety. It’s also hard for her to gain weight.“
Ms Handasyde said delays in the surgeries could be devastating for children of all ages.
Delayed development in speech, feeding complications, scarring, poorer surgery outcomes and insecurities in older children which can effect mental health are all factors Ms Handsayde is hoping the government will consider.
A Department of Health spokesperson told the Gazette that most cleft palate and cleft lip surgeries are classed by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the third urgency category- procedures that can be withheld safely for 365 days.
Hospitals are only taking on category one cases, cases which have to be undergone within 30 days before the patient would deteriorate to an emergency level.
The spokesperson said the treating specialist in each case decide the classification for the patient.
The Code Brown emergency alert will have to be lifted across the state first before hospitals can ease restrictions on elective surgeries, the spokesperson said.
But Ms Handsayde believes Eleanor should not have to wait that long.
“I’m her Mum, I love her face but everyone else does stare and say things because they don’t understand what’s going on,” she said.
“Eleanor, like many other children don’t have a voice that’s being heard.
“As her parent, I need to advocate to ensure that her quality of life is considered when placing these surgeries on hold. I have endeavoured ever since she was born to ensure that I educate those around me.”
Head to change.org/p/daniel-andrews-recommence-cleft-and-palate-surgeries-in-victoria to sign the petition.