“Mr. Quintin, why is Avery’s head oval-shaped?” Maddie’s friend was taking a break from their play-date to get a drink of water as I was placing Avie back into her swing after feeding her. Partially to discourage further such questions, but also to answer her honestly, I included in my explanation words like calcified and hemorrhage and plagiocephaly. “Oh, I see. Can I please have some popcorn?” My plan worked.
Plagiocephaly-“a malformation of the head marked by an oblique slant to the main axis of the skull.” However, more recently, the term has been applied to any condition characterized by a persistent flatten spot on the back or side of the head. There were many factors that contributed to Avery’s case of plagiocephaly. Among them were her premature birth, her early brain hemorrhage (and subsequent surgeries to relieve the pressure exerted from the hydocephalus), and the fact that from very early on her head was placed such that she faced to the right. Due to these external factors, her skull began to harden with the right side being very flat. See, I wasn’t lying to Maddie’s friend.
We recently took Avie to Cranial Technologies, a clinic that treats this condition by way of a helmet called a DOC Band. When used early enough these helmets can usually provide a dramatic improvement in the shape of a baby’s skull.
The miracle of Avie being with us was enough for us to both say that we did not really care about the shape of her head. But then we considered what she will likely say in ten years, (or less) when her self-esteem is based largely on her appearance. So we decided that we would take her in for a consultation. Unfortunately, there are some complications with treating our baby. As of right now she doesn’t have enough strength to hold her head up for long so the addition of six more ounces would decrease her level of head control. And then there’s the issue of her shunt. If it were to become constricted then the results would almost definitely lead to her being hospitalized for another surgery. So the treatment of her plagiocephaly will depend on how long it takes her to build up enough strength to hold her head upright. The good news is that babies can be treated up to eighteen months and her adjusted age will be factored into her potential treatment. The bad news is that with the need for a very custom helmet to be made to accommodate her shunt, our price will likely increase dramatically. And with each day that passes the success of the treatment decreases.
Perspective. Eight months ago we were worried about her mere survival. While we are still concerned about her current health, we are also able to now focus on her future appearance.