Mara-Jade keeps on smiling through her cleft palate surgery

Shelly Jackson 24 with daughter Mara-Jade Dyer 3 ''''Picture: Paul Jacobs  (131382-1)
Shelly Jackson 24 with daughter Mara-Jade Dyer 3 ''''Picture: Paul Jacobs (131382-1)

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A MUM whose daughter had to have two operations to correct a birth defect is supporting the organisation that helped her.

Shelley Jackson is thanking the Cleft Lip and Palate Association after it helped her.

A 20-week scan showed her daughter Mara-Jade Dyer, now three, would be born with the condition.

Shelley, 24, of Avenue Road, in Gosport, turned to Clapa, which provided her with support so she could understand the operation Mara-Jade needed.

Shelley said she did not know much about the condition before her daughter’s diagnosis.

The condition happens when parts of the face do not connect to each other during pregnancy.

Shelley said: ‘I didn’t know what to expect from it.

‘I was thinking “am I going to like the way she looks?”.

‘But as soon as I saw her, I fell in love with her.’

Mara-Jade had two operations, first at around three months old and then at six months old, to repair the palate.

But Shelley said at first she did not want her to go through the operation.

‘I didn’t want the change, I got so used to her being the way she was,’ she said.

‘She had to be specially fed, we had to use squeezy bottles and I got so used to using those.

‘Then after her second operation she was on solid food and it was easier for her.’

Shelley and Mara-Jade recently took part in a sponsored four-mile walk in Brighton.

Together they raised around £100 for Clapa.

The organisation helps families with children who are diagnosed with the rare condition, which occurs in around one in 700 babies.

The cause of the condition is not known and can happen as a one-off in families.

Mara-Jade’s four-month-old brother Elijah does not have the condition.

Shelley said the reactions she got from people who saw Mara-Jade’s cleft palate were generally positive.

She said: ‘I thought it was all my fault. Carrying the child you think you’ve done something.

‘But there could be a lot worse things, a cleft is not as bad some things you could be diagnosed with.’

And it as the support from Clapa that helped Shelley, and Mara-Jade’s dad Matthew Dyer, 35, deal with the diagnosis and the subsequent operations.

‘Clapa have been so good to us, they’ve been so helpful,’ she said.

‘They’ve got their own counsellor as well to help you through the changes.

‘I’ve had people helping me all the way through.

‘They keep in contact with you about everything as well.’

Shelley added she hopes to take part in a charity skydive next year to raise further funds for the organisation.

For more about the condition, see clapa.com