How Tongue and Lip Surgery Became Big Business

How Tongue and Lip Surgery Became Big Business

Later in 2020, Ms Lavelle also made a complaint to the council, describing how traumatized she had been by the release of her daughter’s tongue tie.

The lactation council, which reports its disciplinary decisions, took no action against Ms. Henstrom. A board spokeswoman, Susan Brayshaw, declined to comment on the complaints, citing a privacy policy. “Some complaints take significantly longer than others due to the nature of the allegations and associated investigations,” she said.

Since 2002, the council has revoked the certifications of only three lactation consultants.

Ms. Lavelle also filed a complaint against Dr. Zink with the Idaho Board of Dentistry. The committee collected medical records and statements from Ms. Lavelle and Dr. Zink. Dr. Zink told the board that the June procedure was “uneventful,” but that an extremely small percentage of patients do not respond well to the procedure. He said none of his hundreds of other tongue tie patients had complained before.

The council’s executive director informed Ms Lavelle by email that the group “did not believe further investigation was warranted”. He concluded that Dr. Zink was not at fault.

Late last year, Ms. Henstrom recommended detaching the tongue, lips and cheeks of an infant named Vivi. Sitting in Dr. Zink’s waiting room a few days later, Vivi’s mother, Aubrey Nobili, could hear her baby’s cries over the low hum of a noise machine.

When Mrs. Henstrom brought Vivi back into the room, the crying baby couldn’t catch her breath. Ms. Nobili brought her daughter closer and smelled charred flesh.

Vivi never breastfed again.

Six months later, a specialist at St. Luke’s evaluated Vivi because she was having difficulty swallowing and sometimes choking while drinking from a bottle. The specialist then wrote in her medical file that the problems were “probably due” to the laser surgery.

Ms. Nobili is a stay-at-home mom and her husband, Ryan, works at Costco. They have four other young children. They said they racked up more than $5,000 in credit card debt to pay for Vivi’s dietary therapies.

She turned 1 in November. Her family decorated their house with red and pink balloons and dressed her as a strawberry.

There was only one thing missing: a birthday cake. Vivi still can’t eat solid food.

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Eric D. Eilerman

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