3-year-old Riley patient undergoes sixth surgery

Riley Family on the Dr.'s (WISH Photo/ Rob Ressler)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Christian Buchanan, who was born with a rare condition, underwent his sixth surgery at Riley Hospital For Children at IU Health on Thursday.

The 3-year-old has what’s called “clefting of the face”. He has no eyes and a cleft palate that includes a hole in the roof of his mouth, nearly twice the size of most cleft palates. He can’t eat or enunciate words. Doctors say there are fewer than 60 documented cases of this in medical history.

Christian’s mom says all of the surgeries are exhausting.

“I’m just ready for it to be over. I’m ready for him to start healing,” said Lacey Buchanan.

Christian’s parents chose Dr. Flores to try to create a palate for Christian. The first operation was last November at Riley. Thursday was the second, and last, operation.

“So I really have not a lot of tissue to work with, to close a very large hole,” said Dr. Roberto Flores, director of craniofacial surgery, at Riley.

Lacey said they chose Dr. Flores because of his skill and compassion.

“To be able to hand my baby over and trust them with his life and his well being, it means the world. We searched for two years to find that,” says Lacey.

In 24-Hour News 8’s story in February, Christian was wearing a cape and playing a small piano at Riley. The story touched 4th graders at Sunny Heights Elementary School in Warren Township and they made him a new cape.

Their teacher, Kris Hiatt, gave it to Christian Wednesday night. It is that kind of understanding that Lacey says made her go public in the first place.

“He has to grow up in this world where he’s judged for that. And I didn’t want that for him. And I started sharing our story so people would understand. And I thought if I have to do it one person at a time I will,” she said.

If this surgery goes well, Christian should be able to speak much more clearly and eat through his mouth. The first surgery at Riley already has him showing improvement in both those areas.

The family says after he heals, there will likely be other surgeries on his face.

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