Molly Lawson weighed a healthy 8 pounds, 5 ounces when she was born on October 2, 2012. But in her first week of life, she lost an alarming two pounds because of a rare birth defect that left her unable to easily breathe or swallow.
Just after Molly’s birth to John and Trish Lawson of Hobart, Ind., doctors at nearby Franciscan St. Anthony Hospital in Crown Point, diagnosed her with Pierre Robin sequence. This congenital condition is characterized by a cleft palate as well as an underdeveloped jaw that pushes the tongue toward the back of the throat, where it can obstruct the airway. Neonatologists at St. Anthony’s recommended the couple bring Molly to experts at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital.
Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Russell Reid, MD, PhD, and pediatrician Darrel Waggoner, MD, met with the Lawsons when they arrived at the medical center. Reid and Waggoner lead a multidisciplinary cleft lip and cleft palate clinic that assesses and treats about 20 children with mild to severe Pierre Robin sequence each year.
“Molly was in respiratory distress and struggling to eat,” Waggoner said. “She was expending all of her calories for breathing, so nothing was left for growth.” The medical duo told the worried parents it wasn’t safe for them to bring their daughter home.