Text size:

3-Month-Old Undergoes Leading-Edge Cranial Surgery at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital


June 2004 — "I just didn't think it would be this easy," says Christina, mother of 5-month-old Zachary. "The results are better than I could have hoped for."

She is referring to the surgery Zachary underwent when he was only 3 months and 23 days old to correct craniosynostosis, a birth defect that causes the soft spot in a baby's skull to close prematurely.

Zachary's diagnosis came as a shock to Christina, who didn't see anything wrong with the shape of her baby's head. Her husband, Matthew, however, noticed that Zachary's head was an odd shape shortly after birth — long and narrow instead of round. After family members and a pediatrician covering for Zachary's doctor noticed the abnormality, Christina knew something was wrong. When Zachary's pediatrician ordered a CAT scan, she had no choice but to acknowledge her son's condition.

"Immediately I turned to the Internet to learn as much as possible about craniosynostosis and what our options were," says Christina. "Fortunately, I came across one website in particular that provided us with invaluable information. We contacted other families whose children had craniosynostosis and prepared ourselves for what lay ahead. We even met a woman, literally down the street, whose baby was born 5 days before Zachary and had a similar operation at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital only days before."

The operation that Christina and Matthew chose was a new, minimally invasive, endoscopic surgical technique performed by physicians at only a handful of hospitals in the country. On March 24, 2004, Zachary was operated on by a team of Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital physicians, consisting of Drew Schnitt, MD, cranio-facial plastic surgeon, his partner Eric Stelnicki, MD, cranio-facial plastic surgeon, and Ian Heger, MD, pediatric neurosurgeon on the medical staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, Memorial Regional Hospital, Memorial Hospital West and Memorial Hospital Pembroke.

"Within a couple of days, Zachary was back to his normal, happy, smiling self," says Christina. "Now he's got his helmet and barely notices it. We just have to get it adjusted once a week as he grows. As awful as it could have been, this turned out to be a great experience, and we're thankful to all the caring, compassionate people at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital."