For some families in the waiting room on the day of the Apert syndrome clinic, it’s a reunion. For others, it’s a revelation. Coming to Boston Children’s Hospital from as far away as China, some have never met another child with Apert syndrome. Before long, parents and kids of all ages and ethnicities are taking group selfies as the younger children run around and play.
“These kids have the brightest smiles, they’re very resilient,” says Tambra Milot, mother of 3-year-old Madilynn.
Each year, the clinic sees about 50 children with Apert syndrome, a rare genetic disorder in which the skull, face, hands and feet develop abnormally. The clinic is held at least twice a month, bringing together the specialists each child needs to see. Today, families are also here for the weekend, to exchange information and learn about the latest research at Boston Children’s 2016 Apert Family Symposium. …
Diba Jalalzadeh, now 12, paces energetically around the waiting room. She has been coming to Boston Children’s Hospital since she was a baby. Today she is seeing her developmental medicine specialist, Dr. Carolyn Bridgemohan.
But she’s just one of the many specialists Diba sees at Children’s.“We touch on many departments,” says Monir, Diba’s mother.
Diba was diagnosed with Crouzon syndrome when she was 10 months old. She has had several surgeries to manage the effects of her craniofacial syndrome on her skull, eye muscles, tonsils and adenoids. She currently wears a brace on her chest to counter kyphosis (her shoulders’ tendency to cave in).
Though she’s never gotten really sick, Diba is a complex patient. Unrelated to her syndrome, she also meets criteria for autism spectrum disorder, so procedures most kids will put up with can potentially make her very anxious.
Blood pressure measurement? “She doesn’t enjoy that at all, but she tries to get through it.”
Sleep study? “She had a very hard time sleeping through the night but she managed to sleep a little,” says Monir. “If you ask her to do it again, she says, ‘No I can’t even try it!'”
Eye patching for an exam? “I won’t do it.” (She finally agreed to it at the end of the visit.)
Even measuring Diba’s head circumference can be a challenge.
Listen to Colton and Lena talk about their relationship.
My little sister, Lena, was born in Denver, Colorado, on Feb. 24, 2000. My recollection of that day and the weeks that followed is hazy — not only because I was just six years old, but also because I was being shuttled between several relatives while my parents attended to some “medical problem” my sister had, which I couldn’t really understand.
The words spina bifida didn’t mean much to me, but between my parents’ solemnity and the fact that — as it was explained to me — the doctors needed to cut into my sister’s back with a laser, I started to get an abstract, naive idea of the seriousness of the whole thing.
Sierra Yoder was having a normal pregnancy, but the 20-week prenatal ultrasound seemed to tell another story. The Yoders learned that their child — a boy to be named Bentley — had something called an encephalocele. Brain tissue was bulging out of an abnormal opening in his skull, unprotected by bone.
“They said he had zero chance of survival — ‘incompatible with life,’ they told us,” recalls Sierra. “I specifically remember asking is there any chance he could survive? They said no, that in the best-case scenario, he’s going to be a vegetable. They made it out like I was going to lose him at any point.”
With that knowledge, the Yoders decided to end the pregnancy. But at the 11th hour, Sierra changed her mind. It didn’t feel right — Bentley was moving and kicking and had a strong heartbeat.
So they kept going. …