Ochsner Patient, Singing Sensation Brings Attention to Cleft Palate Awareness & Prevention Month

Ochsner Patient, Singing Sensation Brings Attention to Cleft Palate Awareness & Prevention Month

His story captured the hearts of millions of Americans when he appeared on the final season of American Idol; born with a cleft palate, Cameron Richard continues to amaze.

Now 16-years-old, the Raceland teen has overcome insurmountable odds. Shortly after birth, doctors at Ochsner Hospital for Children treated him for a severe case of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) bronchiolitis that nearly killed him. At 10 months old Ochsner’s surgeons repaired Cameron’s cleft palate, and over the next year he was in and out of the hospital for unrelated illnesses.

“It was like we were living at the hospital—it felt like forever,” said Cameron’s mother, Tina Richard. “But the staff at Ochsner Hospital for Children treated us like family.”

Tina remembers doctors saying that speech would be Cameron’s greatest challenge and that he would most likely need speech therapy for many years. At the time, becoming a singing sensation as a teenager may have been the last thing she imagined for her son.

“It was difficult to hear in the beginning, but our concerns quickly faded,” Tina said. “After a while you kind of forgot everything he had been through.”

Instead of needing therapy, Cameron thrived. His love for music developed at a very young age—inspired by musical greats like Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, the Beatles and contemporary artists like Justin Timberlake and Rihanna. During his appearance on American Idol, Cameron “wowed” the judges—performing a rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love.”

“Getting the opportunity to perform in front of some of the biggest stars in Hollywood was a dream come true,” said Cameron. “The experience will be something I will always remember, and I’m honored my story is inspiring others to follow their dreams.”

Life has been hectic to say the least since appearing on one of the most popular TV shows ever created. Cameron’s summer schedule includes events across Louisiana and beyond. However, he still makes time for friends and extracurricular activities. The soon-to-be junior at Central Lafourche High School this Fall play’s soccer and was elected as junior class president.

“I like to think I’m like most high schoolers,” said Cameron. “Singing is just something that has opened the doors for me to share my story and let kids around the world know anything is possible.”

Cameron has never shied away from the condition he was born with. Every July, he happily participates in National Cleft Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month—a time when treatment specialists, support organizations, advocacy groups, and affected individuals and families join forces to encourage awareness of cleft and craniofacial conditions.

Cameron’s pediatrician, Dr. Daniel Bronfin -- who leads the Ochsner Craniofacial Team, a interdisciplinary team of 10 clinicians who have expertise in caring for these special children -- said that it’s “very, very unusual” for cleft palate patients to not require speech therapy.

“The majority of cleft patients not only need speech therapy, it turns out to be one of the most critical interventions for these kids,” Dr. Bronfin said. “Despite multiple evaluations by speech pathologists, Cameron never required speech therapy. That was not expected, but Cameron has proved expectations wrong through sheer determination.”

“Cameron has certainly left a lasting impression on all of his doctors, and we know that this exceptional young man will serve as an inspiration to other children with similar challenges.”

Approximately 1 out of every 700 babies are born with a cleft lip and/or palate. The CDC estimates 7,000 babies will be born with cleft in the U.S. this year. The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association strongly encourages team care for all children with clefts.

Ochsner Hospital for Children is a 103-bed children’s hospital within a hospital, offering a level of pediatric care unmatched in Louisiana with more than 30 pediatric specialties and sub-specialties.

To learn more about why more parents are choosing Ochsner Hospital for Children, or to setup an appointment, call 504-842-3900.


Ochsner Health System is Louisiana’s largest non-profit, academic, healthcare system. Driven by a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate, coordinated clinical and hospital patient care is provided across the region by Ochsner's 28 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and more than 60 health centers. Ochsner is the only Louisiana hospital recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Hospital” across six specialty categories caring for patients from all 50 states and more than 80 countries worldwide each year. Ochsner employs more than 17,000 employees and over 1,000 physicians in over 90 medical specialties and subspecialties, and conducts more than 1,000 clinical research studies. Ochsner Health System is proud to be a tobacco-free environment. For more information, please visit ochsner.org and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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