Branstad Family
The Branstad family: Front row, left to right: Kirstyn and Keely. Back row, left to right: Jake, Kara, Bob, Jill, Ike, and Zeke.  

When Jill Branstad and her husband, Bob, adopted daughter Keely from South Korea 15 years ago, the 6-month-old baby girl had a cleft lip and a cleft palate and needed surgery at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital in Iowa City. Kirstyn, adopted seven years ago at age 22 months, had the same needs.

Jill operated a day care center out of her Clear Lake home, so every Iowa City visit meant shutting her business down for the day, driving the more than four hours to Iowa City and then back home. It created a financial strain, she says. The girls are two of six adopted children in the Branstad household, so coordinating schedules for a day in Iowa City would add to the stress.

Luckily for the Branstads, UI Children’s Hospital offers consultations and follow-up care for cleft palate in Spencer, where they are seen twice each year. Rather than drive to Iowa City, the family can meet with their pediatric specialist and receive ongoing care closer to the Branstad’s Clear Lake home.

A System of Care

UI Children’s Hospital is committed to creating a “system of care” for children, connecting families with specialty services, family resources, community providers, support services, and electronic medical records. Collaborating with local providers—in this case, the cleft palate clinic is located within Northwest Iowa Ear, Nose and Throat—can lead to better health outcomes and lower medical costs.

Being closer to home meant Jill could close her business for just half a day or have someone come in and take over for the day, creating less of a financial strain on the family and a much shorter drive.

Deborah Kacmarynski, MD, co-director of the Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Center at UI Hospitals and Clinics and assistant professor in the UI Department of Otolaryngology, co-leads the cleft clinic in Spencer.

“This allows us to perform most of the treatment and workup needed for routine cleft clinic visits,” Kacmarynski says. “People drive for far fewer hours to reach this clinic and it serves the region with more convenience for most of the clinic visits throughout their child’s life.”

The cleft team is in Spencer twice each year and provides non-surgical followup including hearing tests, dental exams, speech therapy, and orthodontic evaluations.

“Anything we would normally do in Iowa City—with the exception of the surgeries—we can do in Spencer, we just go from room to room,” Jill says. “When we go to Spencer it’s usually faster, there’s not a lot of time spent waiting, and I’m saving on gas and not paying for a full day of parking.”

And One More Benefit...

Kacmarynski sees another positive with the community clinic.

“One benefit of the twice-yearly visits is the camaraderie and friendships that have built among the families who attend this clinic, as the only clinic visits those days are our cleft patients,” she says. “Twice yearly many of the families see each other again, exchange updates and watch their children grow up together. Many families have taken advantage of this outreach clinic and several have multiple children with clefting who are seen together at this location.”

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