Plagiosaur, No More

During my pregnancy, Mason spent most of his days nestled in my rib cage. I remember pleading with him to scoot down just a smidgen so I could feel a bit of relief.  However, his siblings just didn’t leave him any space to move.  In my ribs he remained.  After delivery, I noticed a rib on my right side was shifted out of alignment, but Mason seemed fine.  After discharge from the NICU, we noticed him struggling to keep his head upright.  After an occupational therapy evaluation, we learned that his neck muscles were weak on the left side causing him to drop his head to the right.  After months of occupational therapy, there was concern regarding not only his neck muscles but also his head shape.  An evaluation at Cranial Technologies revealed severe Plagiocephaly, or oblique head shape.

We made the difficult decision to have him fitted for a DOC band to correct his head shape.  Although treatment was estimated to last 2-3 months, Mason endured treatment for a grueling 5 months.  In the beginning, he didn’t mind wearing the band 23 hours a day, and we thought he was adorable wearing it.  His new accessory seemed to highlight his dreamy brown eyes and huge dimples. I also enjoyed having one on one time with him as I took him for adjustments on a weekly basis.  We anticipated that he would complete treatment prior to the onset of a hot Texas summer, but he just wasn’t done by then.  He ended up outgrowing the first DOC band and was evaluated a second time.  Based upon evaluation results, Mason was fitted for a second DOC band.

Over the past several weeks, our entire family became increasingly tired of Mason’s DOC band.  I grew tired of figuring out how to take him to appointments while caring for the other babies, George grew tired of decorating and touching up the paint, but worst of all Mason grew tired of wearing it.  For the first time, he started unfastening the Velcro on the side and pulling at it.  It pained me to force him to continue wearing it when clearly he was D-O-N-E.  This past Friday he began crying when we put it on him as if really bothered by it.  Upon removal of the band, we noticed two red spots forming.  One was on the center of his forehead and the other on his left temple.  Since Cranial Technologies is not open on weekends, Mason got a weekend long break from the DOC band and he seemed so happy.  On Monday, I called the clinic so he could be adjusted that afternoon.

My friend, Kristin, happened to be hanging out with us on Monday so she helped me tote all four babies to Cranial Technologies for Mason’s appointment.  It was the first time I brought all four babies together to the clinic, and the staff finally got to see the full set.

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Mason’s occupational therapist at Cranial Technologies examined his head and was ecstatic with his progress.  She reported that his ears and cheeks were now even, and the back of his skull rounded out.  Amen!  It was a slow day at the clinic so Cindy asked if I wanted Mason to have his exit images taken.  What?  EXIT?  Hallelujah!  Within a few short minutes, Mason was dressed down to his diaper, fitted with a stocking cap and his noggin was photographed with a 360 degree camera.  We were then taken to a small room where Cindy showed us before treatment, mid treatment, and after pictures of Mason’s head from all angles.  It was reaffirming to see how much progress he made.  Before we left, Mason was given a DOC Band Graduation diploma and we thanked Cindy for helping him.  While DOC band treatment was far longer than we anticipated, George and I will never regret what it did for Mason and I hope he realizes the benefits later in life.

I didn’t anticipate Mason’s graduation and I didn’t have my camera, but I snapped a few pictures using my phone to commemorate the big day.

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This is Cindy who we have to thank for helping Mason along the way. Each week, she charted his growth and adjusted his band to encourage growth.

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Mason seemed impressed with his own progress. The picture on the left is before treatment, the next is mid treatment, and the far right shows him now. In a few weeks, we will get his exit evaluation report and copies of all images.

They didn't play Pomp and Circumstance, but Mason did receive a diploma.

They didn’t play Pomp and Circumstance, but Mason did receive an official diploma.

Here is a bird's eye view of Mason's head after treatment.  His right cheek no longer juts out and his head is rounded out in the back.

Here is a bird’s eye view of Mason’s head after treatment. His right cheek no longer juts out and his head is rounded out in the back.

Mason is so handsome without his band.

Mason is so handsome without his band, and proud of himself.

hugs!

Amber

Ready to Rumble

Thursday Mason and I returned to Cranial Technologies for his DOC Band fitting to treat his Plagiocephaly (oblique head shape). When the therapist put it on him, he grinned and giggled the whole time.  She even commented on how well he acclimated to it.  His DOC Band needed some minor adjustments and we were on our way.  Mason seemed totally unphased the rest of the evening and did not have any major irritations when we did his skin checks. Since he only had it a few hours before bedtime he didn’t have to sleep in it on night one.

Mason carried on playing as usual even with his DOC Band.  However, the white looked frumpy and clinical to me.

Mason carried on playing as usual even with his DOC Band. However, the white looked frumpy and clinical to me.

He even enjoyed a Baby Einstein DVD with his sibs.

He even enjoyed a Baby Einstein DVD with his sibs.

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While Mason enjoyed his final night of slumber sans DOC Band, George got busy painting a mini masterpiece.  He found a website with samples of painted bands and used a pair of the boy’s camo pants as inspiration.  The end result was exactly as I envisioned.

The artist who painted our inspiration used shades of blue, but we chose classic camouflage colors instead.

The artist who painted our inspiration used shades of blue, but we chose classic camouflage colors instead.

Does he blend in with his surroundings now?

I think Mason’s new fangled accessory highlights his adorable face rather nicely.

I think he looks pretty dapper.

This is one dapper boy!

Friday Mason was content wearing his DOC Band during feedings and playtime, but naps were an entirely different story.  Poor Mason could not find a comfortable place and fussed the whole time.  He only napped a few times for 20-30 minutes at best.  I was concerned that his pleasant mood would soon deteriorate because he is a fantastic napper (he’ll take 90 to 120 minutes naps).  He proved me wrong and maintained a good attitude all day even without naps!

Since he couldn’t seem to sleep all day we were slightly concerned about making it through the night with Mason’s new accessory.  George and I braced ourselves for a rough night, but Mason slept like an angel!  I think he was utterly exhausted and finally figured out that he could sleep in the DOC Band after all.  Harper on the other hand woke up wailing at 10:00 pm for no apparent reason.  Thankfully, we were able to settle him and all babies slept through the night as usual.

Order is restored!  Mason is napping like himself again.

Order is restored! Mason is napping like himself again.

Hugs!

Amber

PS- In case you are new to our site,  I wrote about Mason’s Plagiocephaly here:  https://fourtoadore.com/2013/03/16/plagiosaurus/

Plagiosaurus

While the babies were in the NICU, both Physical and Occupational Therapists worked with them on feeding and positioning.  Repositioning is critical for premature babies because they have soft heads and spend a lot of time in bed sleeping.  At one point during our NICU stay, both Sydney and Mason began developing flattened heads.  With repositioning, they both improved.

Once the babies were home, they all began receiving Occupational Therapy through Early Childhood Intervention to help address developmental delays from prematurity.  While they have all responded well to therapy, Mason’s head continued to be a concern.  Soon after coming home, we noticed he favored his right side often turning only that way and sometimes dropping his chin towards the right.  He struggled to control his head and tummy time was a feat for him.  Early on, our Occupational Therapist, Laurie, taught us a stretching regimen and showed us how to reposition him and encourage him to look left (e.g. putting favorite toys on that side, moving his mobile).  Mason showed drastic improvements after only one therapy session.  Turning left wasn’t as difficult as it once was, but he continued to favor his right side.  Laurie ramped up Mason’s stretches and we saw some gains for him.

Back in November Mason could only hold his head up in short spurts during supported tummy time.

Back in November Mason could only hold his head up in short spurts during supported tummy time.  he is on the far left with his head dropped.

To our surprise, Mason’s tight neck muscles did not hamper his motor skill development.  He compensated and remains the only baby who skillfully  rolls over both ways, changes direction, and scoots a bit.  Additionally, he uses both hands together relatively well and explores his environment with gusto.  On the downside, since he does all of these things we cannot reposition him anymore and we still observe facial asymmetry.  Laurie urged us to have Mason evaluated for Plagioephaly, which means oblique shaped head. While it does not impact cognitive development,  Laurie explained that some research suggests that asymmetry can result in poor gait and balance due to uneven ears and eyes.  If left untreated, Plagiocephaly can cause problems with glasses sitting correctly and sports helmets fitting as well.  I was also really concerned because social psychology research indicates that people prefer to look at symmetrical faces and consider them most attractive.  It breaks my heart to think that Mason could later be viewed as less attractive if his parents didn’t want to explore treatment options.  He’s much to handsome for that!

With time and therapy, Mason has no trouble holding his head up.

With time and therapy, Mason has no trouble holding his head up.

Of course when I asked our pediatrician about it at our six month check up he scoffed at the idea touting that no one has a symmetrical head.  I’m sure he’s right, no one is perfectly symmetrical.  However, Mason’s asymmetry is noticeable and there could be repercussions in the future.  Despite Dr. Knapp’s lack of concern regarding Mason’s head shape, we chose to take him to Cranial Technologies for an evaluation, which was free.

We were glad we went with our intuition and opted for the evaluation because Mason was indeed diagnosed with Plagiocephaly.  They pointed out that the back of his head looks great (thanks to therapy), but the side is uneven pushing his right cheek, ear, and eye slightly forward.  Honestly, many people probably don’t notice, but his asymmetry was considered “severe” considering measurements from one side of his head to the other.  Since he falls within the severe range, treatment is covered by insurance. which is a huge blessing because it costs $3800.  Of course insurance required a pediatrician’s prescription, but Dr. Knapp agreed once he saw the evaluation results.  (Whew!)  We are also grateful that only one of the four babies requires treatment.  Babies who are premature, multiples, sleep on their backs, and in the NICU are at the greatest risk for developing Plagiocephaly and that describes all four of them.

This week digital images were taken of his head to create a custom fitted DOC Band.  When the initial images were taken for evaluation, Mason giggled the entire time and tracked the light they showed him.  Two weeks later it was a different story.  Mason grinned and flashed his huge dimples until I handed him off to a stranger.  He wailed and blubbered the entire time  even though I was three feet away talking to him.  I think he met the “stranger danger” milestone.

Starting next week, Mason will wear his DOC Band 23 hours every day.  We will take him back to Cranial Technologies for and adjustment every other week for the next two to three months.  I know I will loathe not being able to kiss his sweet head all day long, but in the scheme of it I know it won’t be that long.  I’m also glad we are doing this now while he is too small to remember and doesn’t have the dexterity to unfasten the straps on his band.  It might even be handy as he becomes mobile bumps into furniture.

These bands are a bit clinical and frumpy looking so George is planning to paint it to look like camouflage.  If Mason’s wearing this accessory all the time, it might as well be cute as he is.  I’m affectionately referring to Mason as my “Plagiosaurus”.

From the back, Mason's head looks similar to his siblings.  He once had an off center bald spot from favoring one side.  As he progressed with therapy the bald spot shifted to the center, but is gone since he tummy sleeps.

From the back, Mason’s head looks similar to his siblings. He once had an off center bald spot from favoring one side. As he progressed with therapy the bald spot shifted to the center, but is gone since he tummy sleeps.

Mason is a man on the move so capturing a bird's eye view of his head was tricky.  From this picture you can see where his right cheek and ear are further forward.

Mason is a man on the move so capturing a bird’s-eye view of his head was tricky. From this picture you can see where his right cheek and ear are further forward.

This is a bird's eye view of Sydney's head.  Of course she stayed still for the picture so it's a better angle, but you can notice she is more symmetrical.

This is a bird’s-eye view of Sydney’s head. Of course she stayed still for the picture so it’s a better angle, but you can notice she is more symmetrical.

It is subtle, but if you look carefully, Mason's right cheek appears fuller than the left.

It is subtle, but if you look carefully, Mason’s right cheek appears fuller than the left.

If you’d like to learn more about Plagiocephaly or Cranial Technologies please visit: http://www.cranialtech.com/

We are fortunate that Cranial Technologies has a satellite office within thirty minutes from our home as we learned that many patients travel from out of state for treatment!

Hugs!

Amber