Katie had been in the world for just an hour when Seymour doctors made arrangements for her to undergo treatment at Riley at IU Health. Born with one of the most common birth defects, Katie had a unilateral cleft lip and palate.

“A cleft lip and cleft palate usually form in early pregnancy when an interruption of the lip and mouth fusing together occurs,” says Robert Havlik, MD, pediatric plastic surgeon and Katie’s doctor. “A cleft lip is a separation of the parts of the lip, and a cleft palate is the separation of the roof of the mouth.”

One of the main concerns with a newborn having a cleft lip and palate is how to adjust the feeding technique when suction becomes difficult due to the opening in the palate. Since proper nourishment is so important for infants, the new moms must bring their babies to the Cleft and Craniofacial Anomalies team at Riley at IU Health soon after birth to meet with nurses who can help with feeding. Katie’s mom, Kelly, still remembers the nurse who taught her how to feed Katie.

“It was an amazing experience,” Kelly says.

Katie is now 13 years old, in the 8th grade at Brownstown Middle School where she is in choir, plays tennis and is the manager for the 8th grade girl’s volleyball team. Katie has a special interest in Veterinarian Science and hopes to attend camp this coming summer at Purdue University where she and other children spend a week exploring the possibilities of some day becoming a veterinarian. Katie is an active 6th year 4-H member. This past summer she received 1st place in Junior Trail with her pony, Pooh Bear. Katie also shows Boer goats and is a member of the “Mighty Meat Goats Club”. She was awarded the 4-H Herdsman Award by the 4-H goat club leaders at the Jackson County Fair this past year because of her knowledge and skill in proper care, handling, and stabling of livestock on public exhibition.

During her free time she enjoys taking care of the family pets and playing with her cat, Buttercup. She also likes to go trail riding, hunting and fishing with her Dad and brothers.

Katie and her mother, Kelly, enjoy working together promoting craniofacial awareness. The initial shock of seeing Katie born with a craniofacial abnormality quickly turned into an inspiration for the Turner family as Kelly decided to create the Heads Up Foundation – supporting other children like Katie as well as the healthcare organizations who care for them. The foundation has donated over $60,000 to Riley Hospital for Children by collecting empty ink cartridges. The organization also helps send kids to Riley at IU Health Camp About Face – a camp for children with craniofacial anomalies. Through activities such as boating, swimming, hiking, and arts and crafts, the camp boosts children’s self-esteem. Katie recently took on the task of selling t-shirts and bracelets which will benefit Camp About Face.

“Riley is a place where good things happen,” says Kelly. “They gave Katie a normal life and without access to such a phenomenal team of doctors, nurses and staff, I can’t even imagine what her life would have been like. Our family is comforted in knowing that a place like Riley exits.”

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