Henry's on the road to recovery after operations

BEFORE: Henry Ayrey was five months old when he had his first surgery to correct his cleft palate.
SUPPLIED
BEFORE: Henry Ayrey was five months old when he had his first surgery to correct his cleft palate.

Henry Ayrey is only three years old but has spent his life in and out of hospital.

He was born with a cleft palate and in his short life has had three surgeries to correct his disfigured upper lip.

Dealing with the condition has had a "pretty simple" effect on the life outlook of Henry's mother Louise.

AFTER: Three-year-old Henry Ayrey has now had three operations to correct his cleft palate.
SUPPLIED
AFTER: Three-year-old Henry Ayrey has now had three operations to correct his cleft palate.

"It's definitely made me more empathetic toward any child with a birth defect," she says.

"When babies are born people always look at photos and comment on their cute noses and facial features but a child born with cleft doesn't get that."

The facial disfigurement affects one in 700 New Zealanders and requires ongoing surgery and dental work for up to 20 years.

Henry has recovered well from each operation and Mrs Ayrey is now reaching out to other families and people who have the disfigurement.

She is a volunteer for Cleft New Zealand and together with 20-year-old Cantabrian Kenny Ardouin has helped organise a national awareness road show.

Mr Ardouin is travelling up the country in a green caravan stopping at towns along the way.

"The aim of the tour is to get out there and encourage anyone in the community that is dealing with cleft issues to come and see us," he says.

"It's something a lot of people in our communities must deal with. I was born with this so I know first hand the challenges involved."

The university student will be parked up at Cornwall Park from 9am to 5pm tomorrow.

Mrs Ayrey hopes the road show will be a chance for people to connect and learn more about living with a cleft lip or palate.

It's not a fundraising event but is more focused around raising the profile of non-profit organisation Cleft New Zealand.

She says one of the biggest misconceptions about cleft is that the mother did something to cause it during pregnancy.

Visit cleft.org.nz or facebook.com/FaceitNZ for more information on the subject.

The Cleft New Zealand road show comes to Cornwall Park from 9am to 5pm tomorrow. The green campervan will be situated in the carpark to the right of the main entrance to Cornwall Park on Greenlane West Rd.

Central Leader