Carter Powell used to have to plug one nostril when he used mouthwash.
“Otherwise, it would leak out that nostril,” the 10-year-old Granville boy said Wednesday.
Born with a cleft lip and palate, Carter “didn’t have enough suction to use straws,” he said. So when he went to a restaurant, he’d have to ask the waiter to put his water or juice in a coffee cup.
After having corrective surgery at the Cleft-Craniofacial Center at Albany Medical Center in March, Carter can focus less on how he freshens his breath and drinks his beverages and more on being a kid.
“It’s a lot more convenient,” he said.
Carter was at Albany Medical Center with his mom, Jennifer Powell, to help announce a $2.5 million gift by Saratoga Springs philanthropists Robert and Lisa Moser to the Cleft-Craniofacial Center. It’s a gift that will help more local children born with cleft, cranial and facial abnormalities. The Spa City couple were joined by their children, Carson, 9, and Emery, 7, in announcing the donation.
“It’s just very generous of the Moser family to make this donation,” Carter said, “and I think it’s really gonna help kids that have cleft issues.”
Robert Moser, a real estate developer who owns Prime Group Holdings, said he had been a frequent supporter of Medical Missions for Children, a nonprofit that provides medical services to children with cleft lip and palate issues in third-world countries. When he learned about the center in Albany, which opened in June 2015, “it was something that we wanted to get involved with immediately,” he said.
“I look back to when I was a child and how tough it was to go through school with any social pressures, and these poor children — if there’s anything that I could do to help them make their lives easier and to transform and have that large of an impact on it, I just wanted to do so,” he said.
Dr. Seun Adetayo, the director of the specialized center at Albany Med, said the Powells are representative of many of the patients and families she helps. The center — home to the region’s only pediatric plastic surgeon, Dr. Adetayo — serves hundreds of children from northeastern New York and western New England annually.
“A lot of times, it’s easier for children with cleft, cranial and facial abnormalities to really just become a number in the system,” Adetayo said. “Many of the patients don’t have insurance. They don’t have coverage, and that’s where Bob and Lisa’s critical work comes into play.”
When Adetayo first met Carter, he had already had two surgeries and had complications from both, she said.
“I get referred patients who have sometimes had five or seven surgeries before the age of 8, and people say, ‘We don’t know what to do; can you please help fix them?’ And Carter was one of such children where the quality of life is really affected, but a lot of times, the insurance says, well, you can still function relative to society.”
Carter’s first surgery was initially denied coverage, she said, “and so I went on a mission with Jennifer, who really — she’s a phenomenal and amazing mother —and she put together resources to present at the national and local legislative level.”
Jennifer Powell said coverage for Carter’s next surgery in August, a bone graft, was also denied because it would require doctors to first realign his jaw, which did not develop correctly.
“Insurance companies don’t always see that as a medical issue,” she said.
Powell said she recently met with state Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, and state Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, D-Brooklyn, who committed to work on legislation during the next session that would extend medical coverage to children born with cleft lip and palate conditions.
She thanked Robert and Lisa Moser, saying their donation will help “numerous families and individuals get much-needed treatment and services, especially those struggling with insurance.”
“I feel so honored to be the mother who has the opportunity to publicly thank you for your generosity and philanthropy,” she said. “I couldn’t think of a more worthy cause.”