My daughters love looking at their baby pictures. They have finally stopped asking "Who are those babies?" and started realizing they are the babies in the pictures. I can't turn the album pages fast enough. They always want to see what's next.
The other day, Sue Sue was studying a picture from when she was just a few months old. "Do I have an owie?" She asked. So she and I (and her sisters) had to have a talk about hemangiomas. Many of you know them as "Strawberries," those red birth marks you see now and then on people. In simple terms, a hemangioma is an abnormal build up of blood vessels in the skin. It can be a red to reddish-purple lesion on the skin or a massive raised tumor with blood vessels.
At first, I attributed the red spot near Sue Sue's ear to all the tape holding various tubes in her nose. Then one day I felt a lump on the back of her head. Alarmed, I questioned the NICU nurse. She hadn't noticed it either and promised to have the doctor look at it right away. A pediatrician was doing rounds in the NICU, so the nurse had her come over. She felt the lump on Sue Sue's head and said it was likely a hemangioma.... "like the one near her ear." What?! So it wasn't tape irritation?
As the weeks went on, the hemangioma by her ear grew. It got to be about the size of a watch battery. This, of course, was noticeable to anyone and everyone. So many strangers had stories to share. After the second time of hearing "Oh, I know someone who's baby had a similar mark. It was on her foot and it turned out to be cancer," I started answering the "what's that" question with a vague "It's just a birth mark." Before Sue Sue was discharged from the hospital, she was transferred for a week to a children's hospital for feeding issues. At one point, days into the stay, the NICU nurse got a funny look on her face and pulled a doctor aside. He came back and when I saw him inspecting the lump on the back of her head, I looked right at the nurse and said "I'm pretty sure the presence of two hemangiomas is indicated in her file." Apparently the nurse thought someone (me?!) had bonked Sue Sue's head. I was glad when her hair grew in because it's easier to explain a birth mark than it is a lump on a child's head.
The neonatalogist and our pediatrician assured me Sue Sue's hemangiomas would vanish by age five. I had a hard time believing them. Yet, here we are just a little over a month from her fifth birthday and the hemangioma on the back of her head is gone. The one near her ear is still there, but the color has faded almost to a flesh tone and it's no longer raised. Now that her hair is longer, it's covered and I rarely remember it's there.
We were "fortunate" in the hemangioma department. I know a woman whose son had one smack dab in the middle of his forehead. She said people always looked at her like she had just beaten her child. Since most hemangiomas are on the face, they can cause vision problems if they are too close to the eyes.
So, when Sue Sue questioned the "owie" she saw in a picture, I explained in very simple terms what it was. She was fascinated and ran to the bathroom mirror trying to see it. After looking at it for a minute, she came back to look at more baby pictures, and that was that.
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