Doctor starts charity to help cleft lip, palate patients

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Each year, thousands of babies are affected by a disfiguring birth defect and a Bay Area doctor has made helping patients affected by it her life-long crusade.

Dr. Pat Ricalde of Florida Craniofacial Institute has spent much of her life on a mission to help her patients born with cleft lip and palate.

"It's actually the most common life birth defect. 1 in 600 to 700 babies are going to be born in America every year, so that's about 7,000 a year," Dr. Ricalde explained.

Cleft lip and palate is a disfiguring birth defect that affects the upper lip and mouth.

"They can't feed properly, they don't, they won't speak properly. It affect's their ability to hear," Dr. Ricalde explained.

Drew Davis is 27-years old and a patient of Dr. Ricalde's. In his life, he has had 46 surgeries.

"When I was younger it was pretty tough, but as I have gotten older, I have gotten use to it," Drew explained. "I'm doing very good. I have not had a surgery in almost nine years." 

Dr. Ricalde is so driven to help these patients, she started a grassroots effort to raise money for those affected by the deformity.

It's called Every Smile Has A Story and the goal is to help families pay for out-of-pocket expenses after surgery.

"There is just so much of a wonderful opportunity to help and give back to the community, and just see these kids grow. It's wonderful," Dr. Ricalde explained.

Her passion comes from a mission trip she took to South America while in medical school.

"I saw some kids and some families that were involved with this condition and I found it fascinating," she said.

With early intervention and procedures, patients can lead a normal life.

"If you do the operations at the right time, and get involved in therapy at the right time, really there is no end to what these kids can do," Dr. Ricalde said.

She is fulfilling a life-long dream to help others with their smile.