Rachel Beyer planned to deliver her baby naturally. She expected a lot of things to happen naturally—learning to crawl, walk and talk.
She planned diligently.
But after three days of labor induction, on May 1, 2015, she delivered Martin via C-section at a Lansing, Michigan, hospital.
“He was whisked off to the NICU,” Rachel said.
There were breathing and other issues. It was a traumatic introduction to parenthood for Rachel and her husband, Chris.
“He was on pretty intense life support,” said Rachel of her son’s five-week NICU stay. “It was pretty scary.”
Last fall, he was diagnosed with trigonocephaly, metopic craniosynostosis, a condition in which his front cranial suture fused too early.
“He had a triangular-shaped head, a pointy forehead in essence,” Rachel said.
But then, like an unexpected Christmas present, the stars aligned in December and pointed the family in the direction of Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
Some might say the music moved them.
Robert Mann, MD, section chief of pediatric plastic surgery at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and a guitar guru, frequently visits the Lansing-area music store that Chris manages.
“They got to talking one day,” Rachel said. “Turns out he’s a pediatric craniofacial surgeon. We had a consultation and we really clicked with that team. We made the decision pretty abruptly to switch from the surgical team we were working with at U of M to Helen DeVos.”
Two weeks later, on Jan. 22, John Girotto, MD, chief of craniofacial surgery at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, performed craniofacial surgery on Martin.
“He opened up that suture and reconstructed his face, from the eye sockets right up to the middle of his head,” Rachel said. “Dr. Girotto essentially peeled his face off, broke his skull and put it back together. He used dissolving plates and screws, pieced things back together and sculpted a new shape.”
Dr. Girotto said because of the fused growth plates in Martin’s skull, his brain could not grow in the right shape or with the right space. This can cause developmental delays.
“We prefer to operate early and use the brain’s natural growth to guide the shape and size post-operatively,” Dr. Girotto said. “He is doing great, and should continue to excel.”
Rachel’s baby boy looked different after surgery. So much so, that she barely recognized him.
“Knowing it’s your baby but recognizing him as your baby is a little bizarre,” she said. “Martin did really great. He spent three days in the hospital. It was his shortest hospitalization to date.”
They’re thankful for being able to attend a nearby Spectrum Health Lansing clinic for follow-up appointments instead of having to commute to Grand Rapids.
The red-haired, blue-eyed boy is still adapting. So are his parents.
“He is a joy,” Rachel said. “He’s a happy guy. He’s laid back.”
Martin isn’t walking yet, but he’s made great strides with the help of physical therapists and a walker. He delights in watching people and the family’s cats, Simon and Louis. He loves nurses. He smiles a lot.
He’s learning new words on a daily basis and delights in the language of music.
“My husband takes him to music therapy once a week,” Rachel said. “It’s just another form of occupational therapy.”
Like his dad, Martin is active with octaves.
He plays drums, shakers and tambourines. He gets musical encouragement to accomplish certain movements.
“It’s fun therapy,” Rachel said. “I think it’s definitely helping. With his dad working in music, I think it’s just part of our life.”