Sheffield youngster facing up to challenge of cleft lip and palate

Jacob Feather, aged four, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, and mum Ruth Feather at home in Middlewood Road, Sheffield.
Jacob Feather, aged four, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, and mum Ruth Feather at home in Middlewood Road, Sheffield.
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Happy and healthy Jacob Feather hasn’t let his cleft lip and palate hold him back – and now his proud mum is organising Sheffield’s first charity walk to raise money for youngsters similar to her son.

Jacob, aged five, from Middlewood, was diagnosed when his mother Ruth Feather, 35, went for her 20-week scan while pregnant.

Ruth and her husband Harry had no family history of clefts and the mum was even given the option of having an abortion in case a more severe disability was present – but the couple were determined to go ahead with the birth.

Jacob is now making good progress at Marlcliffe Primary School in Wadsley, where he is a reception pupil, and Ruth has organised a three-mile sponsored walk on Saturday around Damflask Reservoir in the Loxley Valley, in aid of the Cleft Lip and Palate Association.

The boy’s mum said she ‘had no idea what to expect’ when doctors told her Jacob would be born with a one-sided cleft lip and palate.

“We were terrified – but we knew we didn’t want an abortion unless there was no chance the baby could live,” said Ruth, an administrator at Sheffield Hallam University.

“Despite many assurances that all was well we spent the rest of the pregnancy worrying that something might have been missed.”

But when Jacob’s parents were put in touch with another family with a similar experience, they realised their fears were unfounded.

“No matter how helpful and kind the specialists and health professionals are, nothing beats meeting fellow parents who have been though the same thing as you and found it was not as bad as they thought,” said Ruth.

Jacob has had surgery to reconstruct his lip, suffers from severe glue ear and has been wearing hearing aids since the age of 20 months. When he is old enough, he will be given the choice of whether to undergo further operations, such as jaw realignment, lip revision or a nose reconstruction.

“We know we have been very lucky in this regard and we are very proud of him, but we have met many children whose speech is not so good, and for whom communication is a daily struggle,” said Ruth, who has a younger son, William.

“Jacob is clever, popular and doing well at school. His speech is now excellent.”

As well as being a volunteer for the Cleft Lip and Palate Association, Ruth has set up a group called Happy Faces Sheffield, providing support to local families.

“We decided to organise the sponsored walk because we’ve had a lot of support from CLAPA over the last five years and we’d like to give something back,” Ruth said.

The walk starts at 11am in Low Bradfield and is suitable for all ages and abilities, including people with prams and wheelchair users. CLAPA runs other sponsored walks around the UK, but this is first in Sheffield.

n Visit Cleft Lip and Palate Association or Feather family Just Giving Page to donate.