Aurora Jane Sommerville is a fighter.
She also happens to be the happiest little nine-month old baby you’ll ever meet.
Behind her large smile, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Aurora has had a difficult life. But in all reality, it’s been far from easy for the Sommerville’s youngest daughter.
Aurora and her twin sister Odette were born six weeks early. Although Odette was perfectly healthy, Aurora was born with a few challenges, which includes a diagnosis of cleft palate of the soft and hard palate in her mouth. To put it simply, she doesn’t have the roof of her mouth or any defined nasal cavities.
Typically when people hear of cleft palate they think of a slice or part of a lip is missing. However, with Aurora it’s the inside of her mouth. Anything she tries to eat or drink automatically comes right back out of her nose, which has resulted in the need for a feeding tube that was surgically implanted. With the tube, she can eat without choking or aspirating.
In addition to the cleft palate, Aurora was born with nerve damage on the whole left side of her body, making it difficult to get around. Currently she’s in physical therapy to help with the nerve damage.
“She’s overcome many hurdles with being sick and just poor immunity in her system,” her father Mike Sommerville said. “She’s definitely a happy, go-getter baby.”
Aurora will undergo a few surgeries in an attempt to correct her cleft palate. The first surgery is the soft palate repair where a surgeon will pull the muscle and skin tissue away from the existing bone to try and give her defined nasal cavities. During this surgery they will also fix her uvula, which was split in two.
The second surgery she will have performed won’t happen until she turns two. Once she turns two, the hard palate repair will be done. The surgery is basically a bone graft to help give the roof of her mouth some hard definition. The surgeon will shave part of her hip bone and graft that into the roof of her mouth.
“She’s been fighting since day one,” her father said. “It’s definitely been a roller coaster ride.”
A roller coaster ride it has been for the Sommerville family. As much of a challenge Aurora’s cleft palate has been physically and emotionally, it has also taken a financial toll on the family.
After being laid off in 2019 by Halliburton, Sommerville and his wife found out shortly afterwards that they were pregnant with twins. The pregnancy was a high risk pregnancy, but one they didn’t expect to bring so many challenges.
The community has stepped up and helped in many different ways to make the Sommerville’s burden lighter. Community member Chandra Mathis even set up a fundraiser to help the family.
“That means a lot to us in our hearts,” Sommerville said. “So many people are just willing to reach out and they don’t even know me or Aurora’s mom.”
“Getting that support from this community has been really amazing and we can’t thank everyone enough,” he added.
Sommerville said that this experience has taught him how precious life is and a lot of medical terminology.
“I’ve got other children. I’ve always loved every one of them. But I didn’t ever stop to think how much I focus my attention on what they are doing or what’s going on around them until we had Aurora. My focus is more to the safety side of things and being precautious.”
If there’s one thing evident about the Sommerville family, it’s that they smile through adversity.