By Lacey Clericuzio, age 13

On June 19, 2000, I was born with a birth defect which made everyone think that I would be weak and dying. But they were wrong; except one thing, I do have a birth defect. It makes me a very special and gifted child.

I am a brave, smart, and charming deaf and low- vision girl who’s gone through so many operations. It is hard for my sweet family to see me in my hospital bed with tubes and bandages or stitches on me. Luckily, my parents met with Dr. John Mulliken; he is the best doctor ever! He said I have a cleft face. We all stay positive throughout our life. When I was one week old, I had my first major operation. A month later, I had an even bigger operation to fix my eyes and insert wires, screws, and a plate to correct my eyes. I wore a brace-like helmet for it. I lived in the NICU and Children’s Hospital for most of my first year of life. Over a dozen surgeries in about two years!

Right before my first birthday, my parents learned that I was deaf. I am so lucky to be a deaf girl because I don’t hear horrible noises — like IV pumps alarm beeping. I can talk with my hands. At age four, I had an operation to insert a plastic nose on my face. My new, sparkly red glasses finally had something to sit on! Around that time when I could see better, I started to communicate. My mother says I haven’t stopped talking (and arguing) since!

I started elementary school with my class. Sometimes kids make fun of me but I think positive. When I was 12 years old, I had another operation to extract eight teeth. This year, I had another operation to take bone from my skull to form a “real” nose and insert a forehead implant.

I would like to thank everyone for their support that I have needed and will need in the future. I will have many more operations. When I am an adult, I want to be a doctor to give back help to other children. Now, I am a pretty teenage girl.

I am very special.