Lisa

Lisa, 27, says she has always been the most outgoing among the four girls in her family. She had to be, she explains, "because I really relied on my personality -- not my looks -- to make friends." That's because throughout most of her childhood, Lisa's face reflected the complications of the cleft lip and palate with which she was born.

Many times, she looked in the mirror and thought of what she would trade to look like everyone else. She was plagued by bouts of low self-esteem. "Even if people just looked at my outfit or my shoes, I would think they were really looking at my face," recalls Lisa.

To correct her condition, Lisa went through a series of surgeries, starting when she was 2 months old. The most serious operation occurred at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite when she was 17. For almost eight hours, Lisa underwent major reconstructive surgery on her jaw and face. Her four-day stay in the hospital was followed by a month-long recovery period.

Lisa went on to college at Kennesaw State University and now loves her job in a pharmaceutical research company. She credits her surgeon, Fernando Burstein, M.D., Director of the Craniofacial Center of Children's at Scottish Rite, for giving her a new outlook on life and confidence in her looks. "Sometimes I still feel like the girl with the crooked nose and deformed lip," Lisa says. "It is almost difficult to believe it when people give me compliments."

One of the most important changes in her life, Lisa feels, is her new attitude about having children one day. She now says she would not be upset to have a child with a cleft lip and palate. She hopes to live in Atlanta if she has children, so that she can be near Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. She has been thrilled with the development of the specially trained Craniofacial team at Children's throughout the years. "When I was little, you had to 'shop' for different specialists, and now this team can do everything. It makes me so happy for the children now. At that age, you just should not have to worry about the things I had to worry about."