KUSA - Jennifer Kemp went through so many surgeries to fix her cleft palate as a child, she couldn't take any more in her teens. As an adult, doctors told her fixing it was out of the question.
Kemp had trouble eating, drinking and even breathing throughout her childhood.
One out of every 1,000 babies born will endure a childhood full of surgeries.
Kemp was one of those children. In and out of the hospital, she no longer wanted to undergo the difficult surgeries.
"The last [surgery] was very, very painful," she said. "And I just couldn't do it any more."
Minus the physical effects of a cleft palate, it was also taking an emotional toll.
"It impacts every part of your life," she said. "It's difficult because your food gets stuck and you get very self conscious; it's hard to eat in front of people."
That all changed when she met Dr. Andrew Winkler during a visit to University of Colorado hospital.
Told she would have to live with a cleft palate the rest of her life, Dr. Winkler told her otherwise.
"There's a lot of times people are told that nothing more can be done," Dr. Winkler said. "And it's just not true. There's a lot we can do for these patients."
This time around, Kemp was ready for more surgery.
Dr. Winkler said many of the outpatient surgeries he performs take no more than three hours and most patients recover in less than a week.
A painless surgery is something Kemp hadn't ever experienced.
"The healing part - it was different," she said. "It wasn't painful at all, which was really surprising."
And yet the change in appearance meant more to Kemp than the improvement in speech, swallowing ability and breathing through her nose properly.
The most rewarding part of the surgery was the self-esteem booster Kemp received; something she thought she would never have.
"I walk around with my head held high," she said. "I look at people. I'm not afraid to talk or look at something any more."