Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
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Monroe Carell Jr.
Children's Hospital
at Vanderbilt
2200 Children's Way
Nashville, TN 37232

(615) 936-1000

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Meet Beau

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Hugh Robert "Beau" Gaston II, 5, is the epitome of health and happiness. He's a handsome little boy and is full of energy.

Looking at Beau, who attends Westminster School, it's hard to imagine that when he was just a few weeks old, he was diagnosed with a serious cranial defect called craniosynostosis. Left undetected, it could have resulted in skull deformities and even impaired brain development.

Beau's pediatrician, Chris Patton, M.D., of Old Harding Pediatrics, noticed that something was not quite right at the infant's 2-month appointment. His head measured too narrow at the top. Patton discovered that one of the fibrous joints or skull growth centers between the bones of the skull at the top of Beau's head had prematurely closed.

"There was a prominence on the skull where one of the two bony plates met," Patton recalled.

Patton estimates he diagnoses craniosynostosis once a year. Approximately one in every 4,000 children is born with this birth defect of the skull. The Gastons were shocked about their infant son's diagnosis since Beau's mother, Robinette, had a normal pregnancy.

"It was just like a Mac truck hit us," Robinette recalls.

After ordering at 3D CT scan at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt to confirm his suspicions that Beau likely had craniosynostosis, Patton referred the Gastons to Kevin Kelly, M.D., director of Craniofacial Surgery at Children's Hospital.

Children's Hospital is part of the Vanderbilt Craniofacial Surgery Center, treating craniosynostosis patients primarily from Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi. The craniofacial team operates on three to four children a week who have various skull and facial defects.

Kelly told the family that Beau would require extensive surgery to correct the defect. Patients who don't receive surgical intervention can suffer from a deformed skull, and deformities of the eye sockets and face can follow. Kelly ensured the family was well-prepared for the surgery, and for what their infant son would look like hours and days after following the surgery to reshape and rebuild his skull.

"A child's appearance after surgery can be frightening for parents with bandages, IVs and monitoring equipment on their baby," Kelly said. "We have a fantastic group that lets the family know what to expect so they don't get any surprises. We also show pictures of the ICU."

Kelly's team connected the Gastons with a mother in Alabama whose son had the same procedure a few years earlier. She even sent pictures of her child after surgery.

"Vanderbilt did the best they could to prepare us for the surgery," Robinette said. "The surgery was the longest period of my life. It was traumatic, but we were prepped for what he was going to look like. It was scary and awful, but his head was fixable."

The delicate five-hour operation was led by Kelly and Noel Tulipan, M.D., and assisted by a team of anesthesiologists and other members of the surgical team. Beau then was transferred to the Pediatric Critical Care Unit at Children's Hospital, where he spent three days.

She said it was amazing how much better he looked a week after surgery, although he remained very swollen for several weeks. By the time he turned 1, he had completely healed.

"Beau's case is the classic example of the importance of primary care well checks," Patton said. "Had this not been detected as early, Beau could've required a much more extensive procedure."

Beau now returns to Children's Hospital every nine months for a follow-up appointment with Kelly to ensure that his skull stays corrected.

"As scary as it all was, the Children's Hospital was amazing and we are so lucky to have the hospital in Nashville," Robinette said.

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