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Hoosier reunites with Riley medical team after 14 surgeries to correct cleft lip and palate

Posted at 9:53 PM, Jul 29, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS — Morgan Campbell’s journey is captured in photos. The 25-year-old said what got her through the tough times and celebrated right next to her during the good times, was her family. Not just her biological family, but team of doctors, nurses, coordinators and the like at Riley Hospital for Children.

“It feels so great just to be back home it feels like, even though we’re in a hospital,” Campbell, a social media specialist for Indiana University and Indiana University Bloomington, said.

Campbell was born with cleft lip and palate. She first came to Riley at 11 days old, and throughout the next 20 years, underwent 14 facial surgeries including on her jaw, lip, and nose. Her last surgery was in 2016.

“It’s been a long journey, but it’s been good,” Campbell said.

One in 600 babies in the United States are born with craniofacial anomalies, according to Riley Hospital for Children.

“There were roller coaster days with everything but where it’s lead me to where I am today. I would not be where I am,” Campbell said.

For some of the nurses, coordinators, and photographer it has been years since seeing Campbell in-person, but the group picked up where they left off at a mini-reunion in one of Riley’s courtyards this week.

Credit: Morgan Campbell

Campbell said she has learned to self-love, but it was not always easy. That is where her Riley family comes in.

Caitlin Church met Campbell ten years ago and the two built a friendship from a mentorship.

Church and Campbell first met at “Camp About Face.” The week-long camp for about 35 kids and teens born with cleft lip or any craniofacial anomalies runs every summer. It's a place where mentors and mentees connect to share experiences, advice and inspiration. COVID-19 has unfortunately canceled the camp this summer and last year.

“I’ve seen her in a lot of different stages too of her journey and I’ve gotten to watch all of that so it’s really cool,” Church said.

Church was also once a patient at Riley. She underwent 16 surgeries for cleft lip, cleft palate and craniosynostosis. Seven years ago, she was hired as IU Health’s craniofacial coordinator and now helps run Camp About Face.

“It’s the goal that we have happy, well-adjusted adults later on and the goals of Camp About Face, this is that realized. Morgan is that realized,” Church added.

Campbell followed in Church’s footsteps and is also a mentor to kids and teens living with a craniofacial anomaly. Both young women are passionate about educating others and helping families.

“It’s important to accept people with all of their differences. It’s just sometimes, [it is] a little more visible,” Campbell said.

"What makes you different, makes you beautiful." Campbell said she learned the quote at camp. She said it was her first of several tattoos. One of the most important ones inked on her body because, she said, it is the quote that starts with family.

“After your surgeries and after your doctor’s appointments may end when you’re 18 and your done with your journey, but doesn’t mean that your family stops,” Campbell said.