August 03, 2010

What's That on Her Face?!

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.


11 comments:

Sadia said...

I love that you share these things with your girls. Eventually, I assume, Melody will ask about her facial cleft, and I hope she finds it as interesting and fun as Sue Sue did her brand of uniqueness.

MaryAnne said...

Emma has a vascular under her nose and on the sides - it's still visible if she's cold or upset, even though I was told it would vanish completely. I initially assumed it was irritation from them sticking tubes up her nose after she was born to extract meconium. Turns out I had the same thing, and you can still see it on my nose also, once you know to look for it.

They aren't considered hereditary, but Lily has the blue version on her nose, which I also had as a kid (well past the age of five - probably until I was 12 or so) that has completely vanished.

Stephanie Barr said...

Ha, I had one right between the eyes. It still gets red if I get angry, or at least, did through my teenage years.

My daughter had a very light one in the same place when she was born but it was gone within months.

Sarah said...

Keira's hemangioma popped up in almost the exact same spot that mine did - almost the middle of the forehead. We let Keira's alone (mine was removed back before they knew better), and I got so tired of people asking me if she had bumped her head. Now at age 2, it has faded so much, people barely notice. Although any new doctor visit has the nurse doing a double-take. ;)

Stephanie Barr said...

OK, went and looked them up. That's not what I had after all since mine was not raised, but just a red spot under the skin. Now I have to figure out what it was.

Stephanie Barr said...

Stork bite, apparently, except mine really didn't entirely go away.

reanbean said...

I'm glad to hear that you Sue Sue was lucky and her hemangiomas have not been a problem. I've seen those marks on babies and never knew just what they were (and was never so bold as to ask a stranger about it). Now I know.

My kids have become very interested in their baby pictures over the last few months. We saved our 2009 calendar, which had baby pictures of them from every month of 2008 (except January and February when they weren't yet born) and they ask to look at that calendar all the time. They lover to point out baby Tiny and baby Buba, and I enjoy looking with them and remembering those days not all that far behind us.

Quadmama said...

My girls had Stork Bites, too. They were on the back of their necks, so one time I asked the NICU nurses if they had heat rash. She explained what it was. The Stork Bites disappeared... I just don't remember when.

Brooke said...

Gosh, I've long forgotten about the old stork bites - thanks for the memories! How soon we forget.

Kim said...

My sister-in-law was born with a huge hemangioma around her ear and across her cheek. Her baby pictures are quite startling. But, indeed, it disappeared over time and she's a very beautiful woman now!

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates said...

My one daughter had the "angel eyes". There was a mark on the upper lid of the left eye. It faded away over time. That was the only mark found on the babies! The reason why I mentioned that is because I was born with a beauty spot on the upper lip and a similar spot between my breasts which they removed at age 18 thinking it might be cancerous...........let's check! Nothing wrong! Oh well, now I still have the beauty spot and a scar between my breasts! I don't know what is worse. LOL.

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