Celeb praises the hero who overcame his cleft lip —II.

Cleft Lip Millionaire.

Former UK game show star Carol Vorderman  idolizes her millionaire big brother—not because he is a successful millionaire, but because he overcame the hardship of being born with a cleft lip and palate.

UK Star Carol & her cleft lipped brother sitting close to ea other at table

Carol & Anton Vorderman





 In a story published in June the well-known game show host wrote that her brother had “a disfigurement so bad he was whisked away from my mother the moment he was born…. The midwife, who ran from the room with the baby in her arms even before Mum had been able to hold him, said to her: ‘He has a hare lip, but it’s all right, it will be repaired.'”

People sometimes described the condition as a “hare lip,” a phrase which is frowned upon now. The “double hare lip” is known today as a “bilateral cleft lip.” Such a deformity results from the two sides of the embryonic face growing forward (from the neural tube and ears), touching and then receding a bit, leaving an island of tissue under the nose. 

Vorderman continues, “[The hospital kept him for 4 weeks.] I can’t imagine what it felt like for Mum to take him in her arms for the first time. But it was the start of the most remarkable display of motherly love which continues to this day.”

“Back at home, Anton found it hard to feed…. The nurses had been feeding him with a pipette, which exhausted him…Their final efforts had been to put milk in a medicine glass, tipping it into his mouth. Mum used this method… His first operation, at the age of just five months, was to lift and center the bone in his nose.[The second was] to re-shape the bubble of tissue under his nostril into a functional upper lip…[the third, was to make him] a palate on the roof of his mouth. Until then, he couldn’t eat solids. If he tried, it would regurgitate up through his nose.”

In Anton’s words:

Anton continues the story in these snippets from an interview by Amanda Cable. 

“[I]t wasn’t until I went to secondary school that the name calling began in earnest. 

Mum was the one who built up my confidence and, looking back, it must have been tough for her. She split up with my father when Carol was just three weeks old. I was seven and only saw my father a couple of times after that. Instead, my magnificent mother coped superbly as a single parent. ..What she instilled in me, from the start, was the sense of being valued and loved, no matter what I looked or sounded like. It was frustrating to have to repeat myself over and over again before I was understood, but I never stopped to feel sorry for myself. 

My teenage years were tough….At dances, I struggled to approach girls … courage usually did the trick. 

When I was 16, my friend bet me £5 that I wouldn’t phone a girl called Frances up and ask her out. I did  –  and she said yes. We went out for a few months and we got on really well. The romance didn’t last, but she still sends me Christmas cards. 

After school I went to university to study mechanical engineering, and then went to work for ICI in Cheshire and then moved to Holland to work for Phillips as a technical author.

…It was only when I was 27 that a major turning point came, and I had a reconstructive operation known as an Abbe flap….During the operation, the surgeon cut a section from my lower lip and added it to my top lip, giving me a philtrum —  the depression between the top lip and the nose. The difference was amazing. It was the first time I had gone out with a relatively normal looking mouth, and it made the biggest psychological difference to me.

[… I’m glad I grew up when I did. In those days, even as I was a painfully shy teenager, you weren’t judged nearly so much on your looks. There wasn’t the internet, the celebrities, the endless emphasis on beauty and perfection…”

Anton went on to become a property developer and a company director He helped launch the European Cleft Organization which tries to improve the lives of children born with cleft palates.

Carol gets the last word:

“Anton has never married. He’d have been a great father, but being single has given him the freedom to enjoy great success, enjoying life with dozens of friends, and establishing a European cleft charity. I’m so proud of all that he has achieved in life.

“[I] never hesitate to agree with Mum when she says he is the real star of the family.”


For more information, visit the Cleft Lip and Palate Association at www.clapa.com; and the Changing Faces charity at www.changingfaces.org.uk.





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To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.

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