The moment a baby smiles for the first time is magical for all involved. It’s one of those moments which is documented by photographs, timestamped in books and shouted about on social media.
So for a baby who was born with the inability to smile, that moment becomes even more remarkable – especially when they’ve gone through life-changing surgery to get to that point.
Six-month-old Cam Martin, from Texas, was born with a severe cleft palate but has now been able to smile for the first time after having surgery on his mouth.
You can see his amazing transformation below:
Cam was born with both a cleft lip and palate, meaning his upper lip was split along with the roof of his mouth (palate).
According to the NHS, the split exists because part of the baby’s face didn’t join together properly in the womb, and can cause a number of problems.
Babies born with a cleft palate may have difficulties with their feeding, hearing and speech – so it is important for them to have surgery to repair the damage.
As a result of these problems, Cam could not breastfeed when he was born and so he had to be fed through a bottle with a special valve.
The cleft palate was not picked up on any sonograms during the pregnancy, but his parents, Matt (29) and Sara (27) said they knew something was wrong as soon as Cam was born back in April.
Matt described the moment he was delivered, just two minutes after his twin brother Jack:
No one said anything at first. I went over to see Cam and the nurses were all huddled together. I had never seen anything like his face before. I had no idea what I was looking at.
A nurse told me he had a cleft lip and palate and that they needed to work out how he was going to eat and breathe.
Cam spent a few days on the neonatal intensive care unit while doctors worked this out, but soon returned home with his parents.
Matt and Sara discussed their options with plastic surgeons, who advised them that Cam would need a series of operations to rebuild his mouth.
On July 25, at three-months-old, baby Cam underwent his first five-hour, life-changing operation to repair his upper lip.
In preparation for the gruelling surgery, Cam had to wear a mouthpiece on the roof of his mouth which would serve to stretch out the area.
Speaking of the moment Cam smiled for the first time, his dad Matt said:
It was a full face smile. He was giving the biggest grin he could. Sara and I cried because we were beginning to think we’d never see him smile.
The beam was in his eyes and in his cheeks. He was saying: ‘I’m still here, I’m still the same baby, everything’s OK.’
This was only the first of three surgeries, the other two Cam will have when he is 18 months to repair the roof of his mouth, and when he is aged between four and seven to rebuild his gum.
Although Cam’s parents describe his face as being bruised and swollen after the surgery, they say it went down after a few days and then they were ‘rewarded’ by seeing him smile for the first time.
What an inspirational little boy!
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).