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Jim Hammel – Born 4 December 1982

I should start by saying I’m not as familiar with the surgeries and official medical terms as I probably should be.  I’ve had 4 surgeries from birth until I was 18, and I only remember the last two. So I’ll just tell you kind of what I remember experiencing and what my parents have told me.

I know I was born with the receding jaw/chin, and cleft palate. My parents also told me I couldn’t breathe, and they had to perform surgery to cut the bottom of my tongue to make it come forward from the back of my throat. Back in 1982, they had much less information and resources regarding PRS than they do now, and my parents were terrified. They really didn’t know what to expect or how to deal with it.

After I was home from the hospital and the first surgery, all I really know is I couldn’t drink from bottles for a long time. As I got a little older and went to preschool and then grade school, I did see a speech therapist regularly. I remember I specifically had a difficult time with pronouncing “s”. I did have kids in school sometimes ask why I talked funny, but I really didn’t know that I did and they were never mean about it, just curious. Eventually my speech did get better and now when I tell people, they have no idea I ever had issues. I believe I had another surgery when I was too young to remember, but I’d have to ask my parents about it again because I forget.

When I was 10, I had cleft palate surgery. I was in the hospital for a few days and it wasn’t easy. I threw up a lot of blood. But it did fix the roof of my mouth and now I don’t remember what it was like before the surgery.

I had my final surgery when I was 18, and that was actually the jaw distraction surgery. I’ve noticed now they do this at a very young age, and I’m not sure if my jaw surgery is the same thing or not. I had braces for almost 4 years, and at some point there was a discussion between myself, my parents and my orthodontist about the jaw surgery. They said it would fix my jaw line so I wouldn’t have problems later in life, it would make my chin a bit more defined, and overall would be beneficial to me. But it was my decision. I knew I wanted to do it, just because by the time I reached my teen years, I knew I had a very small jaw and I did feel self-conscious about it.

The last surgery on my jaw was definitely the most memorable. I was in the hospital for a week, most of the time I think I was on so much morphine I don’t remember any of it. But when I woke up, my face was really swollen and painful. We went home and it did take weeks to recover, but it definitely changed a lot about my life.

That was about 12 years ago, and the fact I was born with PRS isn’t something that comes up in my daily life anymore. When I do tell people, they tell me they never would have known. I do have some issues that are probably related to PRS. I’ve always had minor ear issues; I did have tubes in my ears when I was younger. Also, when I get sick, it always seems to be a respiratory virus, or bronchitis. I don’t know if that’s actually related or not though. Otherwise, I had a pretty normal life I think. I graduated high school with honours, always had good friends and family, graduated college.

I’m sorry this is so long. Basically though, I think parents who have newborns born with PRS should know eventually, as crazy as it sounds now, it will be fine. There’s so much for parents to have to deal with and learn as they go, but my parents did an amazing job and they didn’t have a clue, lol.

It will probably be a struggle for the kids too, but it’ll help shape who they are as a person. My parents tell me all the time how proud they are of me for my accomplishments, and I hope other parents of kids born with PRS feel the same. It’s a lot to overcome for both the kids and the parents, but eventually it will just be a good history story to tell to people.

I hope this is helpful. Thanks for reading it though. Again, sorry it’s so long. Please let me know if you want to know anything more specific, I can always ask my parents again.