A little skull, reshaped

When Arielle was born, her mother, Caterina, noticed something was wrong. Arielle’s lovely little face looked crooked. Part of Arielle’s skull was flat while another area was alarmingly bumpy. As she grew, it seemed to be getting worse.

Caterina was frantic with worry. Could her daughter have a disfiguring birth defect? “Arielle’s nose went off to the side and even her smile was crooked because everything seemed to pull to one side of her head,” she recalls. “School kids can be really mean. I was concerned for her future.”

Caterina and her husband, Rick, took Arielle straight to the neurology department at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, where tests revealed that the infant had craniosynostosis—a deformity where bones in a baby’s skull fuse prematurely, restricting the brain’s growth and resulting in an abnormally-shaped skull. If not corrected, the deformity would continue to worsen. Thankfully, a corrective procedure could be performed once Arielle turned seven months old.

“When we first heard Arielle would be in the operating room for six hours, it sounded like a really long time for a baby to be under anaesthetic,” says Caterina. “But Dr. Pierre Fiset, the head anaesthesiologist, explained very carefully how modern anaesthesia machines remove much of the risk from the procedure. He was very reassuring.”

Key medical equipment

Dr. Fiset explained that the next-generation Primus anaesthesia machine would do more than simply dispense anaesthesia during Arielle’s operation. “The Primus also breathes for Arielle and monitors her heart rate and blood pressure throughout the operation,” notes Dr. Fiset, who describes the machine’s role as critical in the O.R.

After sedation, the surgical team, including Dr. Mirko Gilardino and Dr. Jose-Luis Montes, would take out Arielle’s fused frontal and temporal bones to reshape them before putting them back in place.

“It all sounded so serious to us, but the neurosurgeon and the plastic surgeon did a great job reassuring us that they knew exactly how to correct Arielle’s birth defect,” said Rick.

For all the young patients fighting cancer, Claudia has one prevailing piece of advice: “Be strong! Never give up and never let anyone put you down!”

Today, little Arielle is on the road to recovery. “Her symmetry will return! I already see an improvement!” exclaims Caterina. “She’ll need a few minor operations as she grows, but I have absolute confidence in the team at The Children’s.”

© 2018 The Montreal
Children’s Hospital Foundation

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