Craniosynostosis (Skull Surgery)
Parents Chelsey and Brett were busy raising their 3 year old son and new baby, Owen, living a normal life as a young family in Anchorage. When Owen was almost 12 months old, Chelsey took him to see a new pediatrician for a routine visit that turned out to be anything but routine. “The pediatrician took one look at Owen and turned to me and said, ‘There’s something really wrong with his head. You need to address this right now,’” remembers Chelsey. “Up until that point, we had no idea; it was a real shock.”
“When your wife calls you in a panic saying your baby is on his way for a head CT, you kind of freak out,” recalls Brett. “Owen had the CT scan and a neurosurgeon told us that he had craniosynostosis. They brought in Dr. Dashow and his team at our next appointment – that’s how we knew just how serious it was. You expect to see the doctor you’ve been working with, but when they bring in reinforcements, it’s like ‘whoa, this is a huge deal.’ We were overwhelmed.”
With their family and friends rallied around them, Brett and Chelsey went into full-on parent mode. “Everything became focused on keeping Owen isolated so he wouldn’t get sick leading up to his surgery, which therefore isolated us. We felt like we were living in doctor’s offices and were constantly talking and thinking about all of the risks involved, possible complications, and other scary subjects. It was a very difficult time,” shares Chelsey. “People try to help you, but they don’t know what to do. Thankfully we had grandparent help and the support of our community.”
Brett says that at his first meeting with Dr. Dashow, he felt reassured because of Dr. Dashow’s extensive experience and sympathetic demeanor. “Dr. Dashow told me he’s a dad, too, and he could understand what I was going through from a parent’s perspective. It made me feel like we were in good hands and that everyone at Alaska Center for Oral + Facial Surgery had our back. Even the financial side of things was handled in a friendly and understanding manner. The billing staff worked with our insurance to get as much coverage as possible and then worked with us on a plan so that we weren’t stressed about the payments going into surgery. It was really nice not to have to worry about that and be able to focus on caring for Owen,” says Brett.
“When Owen woke up from surgery, he was ‘hangry’! He perked up quickly after eating and was enjoying solid foods after just two days. They say kids are resilient, but I had no idea what that really meant until I watched in awe as Owen recovered so quickly. Despite his head being really swollen, he was so happy to come home on the fourth day post-surgery and play with his toys and his brother. He had just learned to walk so we were very wary about protecting him, but his helmet came in a few days later and we all felt much better. Owen hated wearing that helmet, but it was well worth it because it helped reshape his head. Looking back at old pictures, his head looks tremendously different now. He has tiny scars but they are covered by his hair and if you looked at him today, you would have no idea what he went through. He’s just a normal, happy toddler again!” says Chelsey.
Owen’s surgery was the first of its kind performed in Alaska. Surgical pioneers, Drs. Dashow and Nordstrom, made this procedure a reality for Owen and now for others in the state. “One thing I wish we had going in to all this was support from a group of people who had been through the same thing. We want to provide that support to anyone following in our footsteps. If you’re facing a procedure like this, I’d say you are in the best possible care with Alaska Center for Oral + Facial Surgery, and that while I know you will worry because that’s what us parents do, everything will be OK and you will be amazed at how well your child will pull through,” Chelsey says.
Brett adds, “The experience we had with everyone at Alaska Center for Oral + Facial Surgery was so supportive. Dr. Dashow and the team are so kind and very aware of the role that they play and how important it is. While they are personable and empathetic, they also understand the severity of the situation. Every interaction with Dr. Dashow and the team was extremely positive; their professionalism made things a lot easier. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”