Abby Mogen, Age 6, from Cuyahoga Falls
Sidekicks: Stuffed cat, Jack-Jack and a small, homemade pillow she refers to as her brother, Who-Who.
When she’s not busy overcoming obstacles: Abby loves to color, draw and paint, as well as dress up in princess outfits.
Did you know fact: Abby was adopted from China when she was 17 months old.
Why Abby is a #ACHero: With a playful smile and boundless energy, you’d never guess Abby’s undergone several surgeries and hours of therapy to correct her cleft lip and palate. She knows her bright smile is the perfect accessory for any occasion or outfit – from going to school to playing dress-up in her vast selection of princess dresses.
Abby’s Story: Abby’s medical journey started more than 7,000 miles away in Guangxi Province, China. She was born with a cleft lip and palate, birth defects that affect the upper lip and roof of the mouth, and given up for adoption at birth.
At 17 months old, Abby’s parents brought her home to Cuyahoga Falls where she was welcomed by family and friends.
Upon her arrival, one of the first visits Abby made was to Akron Children’s Craniofacial Center where she would soon receive care for her cleft lip and palate.
“We knew Abby was going to need surgery to help with her condition…as soon as we met Dr. Lehman we knew we were at the right place,” said Abby’s mother, Emily Mogen. “Everyone in the center has been great to us and to Abby.”
As a new patient to the Craniofacial Center, Abby met with a variety of specialists – surgeons, nutritionists and therapists. She also received a diagnostic evaluation that included X-rays, dental, behavioral, speech, language and hearing evaluations. The evaluations and tests conducted were used to create a health plan to ensure Abby’s surgeries and pre- and post-care were tailored to her specific needs.
At 20 months old, Abby had her first reconstructive surgery to close her cleft lip and palate.
“We knew Abby was going to need ear tube surgery, too, so her 2 surgeons worked together so she could have both surgeries done at the same time,” said Emily. “We were so grateful she didn’t have to be put under (with anesthesia) twice given that she was so young.”
After surgery, Abby came in to see her doctor once a month for the first year to check her progress.
In early 2014, Dr. Niyant Patel recommended Abby start speech therapy to help improve her speech and language skills. She began therapy sessions twice a week and made steady progress. Today, she still goes to speech therapy, but only once a week.
“Abby starts kindergarten in the fall so we’re hoping she may be able to end speech therapy just before the school year begins,” added Emily.
Since her initial surgery, Abby has had 2 revision surgeries to expand her palate in an effort to improve her speech issues. Due to the buildup of scar tissue around her nasal passage, Abby underwent a nose and lip revision in January 2016 to reduce blockage and improve breathing.
No matter the surgery, Abby has always done what’s been asked of her and doesn’t complain. But, on the morning of her most recent surgery, Abby refused to leave the house.
“She wanted to wear her princess Anna (from the Disney movie Frozen) dress to her surgery and wasn’t leaving the house without it on,” said mom. “The staff is so good at Children’s… I explained our situation and the nurses said they’d change Abby back into her Anna dress before she’d realize what was going on… Abby went into surgery as a princess and came out as a princess. It was perfect.”
Although Abby may outgrow her Anna dress some day, she won’t outgrow the care her physicians and specialists provide via annual visits now and through adulthood to monitor her condition.