A chance encounter enables Glenelg parents to help son


June 15, 2000|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHAT WOULD YOU do if you saw a baby wearing a helmet? Would you wonder why? Would you ask his mother?

Many people question Stephanie Guindon of Glenelg about her son, Kyle, who wears a device 23 hours a day that resembles a helmet. It is called the Dynamic Orthotic Cranioplasty (DOC) band, and it helps shape Kyle's head.

Kyle was born May 18, 1999. "He never had that beautiful round, symmetrical head that [his brother] Shawn did," Guindon said. "We just figured it was his head shape ... more flat in the back. As he got older, his head shape was more pronounced."

Guindon had used a wedge to prop Shawn, now 3, on his side when he was a baby. But Kyle would never stay on his side; he would always fall on his back.

"When he was very young, he always fell asleep ... on his back, head tilted, his arms up," Guindon said. "And he slept through the night early on. I didn't mess with it."

But a chance encounter would change Kyle's future. Guindon's husband, Mark, was waiting for an elevator with an acquaintance who, prompted by a sign on the wall, asked if he had seen children who wear helmets to correct their misshapen heads. At that time, he was unaware of the device. He later ran into a woman whose grandson wore such a helmet, and she alerted the Guindons to the Web site of Cranial Technologies Inc., which supplied the helmet.

Stephanie said, "We got their Web site, and we looked it up ... and we said, `That's Kyle!'"

The couple wasted no time. They had to have a referral from a physician, so the next day they printed out the information on the Web site and took it to their pediatrician, Dr. Richard Gorman. The Guindons also made an appointment for Kyle to be examined the next day.

"We expressed to [Gorman] that we wanted the treatments done. We felt that his head was a prime candidate for the DOC band," Stephanie said.

Before she knew it, she was on a flight to North Carolina to visit Cranial Technologies. Fortunately, she had heard about Angel Flight, a group of pilots who fly ill children to medical sites for free.

At Cranial Technologies, Kyle had a plaster of Paris impression cast of his head. Workers then fashioned the band from the impression.

In the beginning, Stephanie had to take her son to the North Carolina facility every week because his head was growing so rapidly. Every time, Angel Flight was there to help, she said. The technicians adjusted the band each time to make sure that it fit properly.

The DOC band is designed to be worn in the first 12 months of life, when brain growth is rapid. Treatment may begin after that, between 12 and 18 months, but the correction is slower. That's why early recognition is essential.

Kyle's head was so misshapen that he will have to wear a band six to eight months. He will wear one band for four months and then have his head recast for a second band, which he will wear for another two to four months.

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) began recommending that babies sleep on their backs, because of the lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

According to the Cranial Technologies Web site, physicians have seen an increase in misshapen heads, or positional plagiocephaly, since the AAP campaign started. But sleep position is only one of the causes of positional plagiocephaly. Premature birth, restrictive intrauterine environment, and congenital muscular torticollis also may cause misshapen head.

Stephanie Guindon pointed out that there have been numerous clinical studies proving that the helmet is a preventive device and that many insurance companies pay for it. The Guindon's insurance company paid the entire cost of Kyle's first treatment and band.

The Guindons are happy that they found out about Cranial Technologies in time to help Kyle. They are good-natured about being stopped to answer questions about the band. Evidently, many people are not aware that such a device exists. So if you ever see a baby wearing a helmet, it just might be a DOC band.

Information: www.cranialtech. com.

Field Day

Manor Woods Elementary School held its sixth Field Day on May 26. Chuck Hall, school custodian, carried an "Olympic torch" to begin the opening ceremonies. Katherine Flemister, Ashley Ko, Jennifer Chase, Roxanne Araghi, Nathan Dryden and Nathaniel Slay had the honor of carrying flags, and Matt Duty, Lisa Alban and Mahveen Riaz read various pieces about famous Olympic athletes.

Gabe Fremuth began the activities by reading the Olympic Oath. Children participated in noncompetitive activities on the school grounds that they named Darling Harbour, Millennium Park, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Olympic Park and Stadium Australia. Each grade represented countries pupils had researched earlier in class. An assembly was held with Spinny Johnson, a former Harlem Globetrotter, showing off his skills with a basketball. In the closing ceremony, every Manor Woods participant received a gold millennium award badge.

Carol Grady spearheaded the making of more than 610 badges. Manor Woods had 610 participants and more than 130 volunteers at the event.

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