My baby girl used to have a lopsided face.
Just before Holden's 3-month birthday, I got a text with the above pic from my mom while I was at work. She and my dad were concerned about Holdy's right cheek, which appeared to be swollen. After seeing the photo, I obviously was
concerned fuh-reaked out as well.
You see, I had noticed a little dime-sized bruise on Holden's right cheek the week before the text. I honest-to-god thought it was from my mother-in-law pinching her cheek, as she was wont to do. The day before I got the text, I felt Holden's cheek around the bruise and it felt a little hard, almost like a swollen insect bite. But I kind of shrugged it off, and was now feeling like the worst mom in the world™ for doing so.
How could I not have noticed that Holden looked like she had her wisdom teeth removed on just one side? I'm thinking it's because I never really was able to look at her from a distance to really witness the disparity; I was usually looking down at her while she nursed or while I was holding her. I mean, I noticed that her cheeks were looking chubbier in photos. But I never picked up on the fact that one was significantly chubbier than the other.
So, I called the pediatrician immediately and got an appointment for that same day. My pediatrician (who I will not name and who I no longer see) looked her over briefly and said, "It's a hemangioma. We'll get you a consult with a pediatric surgeon," and left the room, never to return. We were like:
I was somewhat familiar with hemangiomas because Holden has a superficial hemangioma, or a "strawberry," on her back. But this was a whole new ballpark.
Cutting to the chase: I said screw it to my pediatrician and their pediatric surgeon consult and after many phone calls, found myself at the Dermatology Clinic at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where everyone is wonderful and helpful and doesn't drop bombs on you and then exit the premises.
So here's the deal: I learned that hemangiomas are benign tumors, which sound pretty scary. They're made of tangled masses of blood vessels. Superficial hemangiomas appear redder, like strawberries, because they're in a top layer of skin. Deep hemangiomas appear more bluish or purple, like a bruise, because they're in a deeper layer of skin. Holden's cheek hemangioma is a deep hemangioma.
As was explained to me, deep hemangiomas usually appear a few weeks to months after a baby is born. They go through a rapid growth phase for about six months to a year, and then begin to regress at a much slower rate. The hemangioma should mostly be gone by the time a baby is two or three.
At the advice of our doctor, Dr. Andrea Zaenglein, M.D., Associate Professor of Dermatology and Pediatrics, who is a pediatric dermatology specialist, we decided to pursue a relatively new treatment and start Holden on a course of medicine called Propanolol. A hypertension drug and beta-blocker used to treat infants with heart problems, Propanolol has been shown in recent studies to also attack the blood vessels that make up the hemangioma.
Before we started her on the medication, Holden had to undergo a series of tests at Penn State Hershey's Children's Heart Group to make sure her heart was okay to take the meds. Once we were clear, we started the Propanolol.
No lie, within two days of starting the medication, we began to notice a difference. The hardness of the hemangioma was breaking up and the puffiness started to subside. Within a month or two, her cheeks were just about even. If you didn't know about Holden's hemangioma, you would have never really noticed. Holden was like:
Around nine months, we started to wean Holden off the Propanolol.
And the best news? Today, we had our last appointment at Penn State Hershey and we're officially stopping the medication. Woot! We just have to keep an eye out for any regrowth, but we're hopeful that we're over the hump (pun intended).