Mmm, strawberries! Yuck, strawberry hemangiomas.

This is going to be a mite quickie because I’m still playing catch-up at work, and I’ve discovered Gillian has the psychic ability to sense exactly when I’m sitting down to blog, and immediately go from Happy Babbling Mode into Crank Mode. But we got some good news yesterday, so I thought I’d share a little weirdness we’ve experienced with the youngest Rocket.

When we brought her home from the hospital at three weeks, I noticed a little red dot on the top of her head, nestled within her spiky Buster Poindexter hair. (Some call it Norfin troll, but I’m going with Buster.) The following week, at her first pediatric appointment, Doc Brock flipped her over and pointed out a similar, but larger, red dot on her back, and said they’re called strawberry hemangiomas. “She might get more, and they’ll get bigger,” he said. “But they’re benign.”

The Merry Berry Month of May, it's not.

What is about the word “benign” that sounds so malignant? Hear the word benign, and the mind goes immediately to bad, bad things. But I did a little reading, looked at some hellishly gross pictures (which I will not be sharing; you can find them yourself), and realize the doc was right. Hemangiomas are basically little clusters of blood vessels that have grown on the outside of the skin, instead of the inside; no one really knows what causes them (something about the placenta, maybe), but the top risk factors are genetics, girl, preemie, and twin. My dad’s adopted so my genetics are something of a crapshoot, but she hit two out of the other three, and hit the strawberry jackpot.

The story is this: they grow. Sometimes they multiply. And they keep doing that until the baby’s about six months old, at which point, they stop; and at a year old, they begin to disappear at a rate of about 10% a year, until the kid’s ten years old and is blissfully hemangioma-free. It’s mostly a cosmetic issue, especially since they’re most common on the face and head. Our little nipper’s got a whomping good one on her back–about a half an inch wide, and sitting on her skin like an angry red mushroom cap–but that’s easily covered by a shirt. (Although we can feel it, and it’s honestly kind of gross sometimes.) The little dot on her crown has grown quite a bit, though, and looks much like the popper on a turkey. Our joke is that it peaked when she was about three months old, which meant she was finally done. She’s lucky; she has a tiny one on her temple that’s a little red pindot, but some kids get the bigguns right on their faces, where they’re highly visible and like to draw stares. Which isn’t so bad now, but if it’s still around when school starts, that could be awkward.

But they can cause serious issues, if they’re really big and bumping into internal stuff… or if they’re growing internally. Specifically, in the liver. Specifically, in the liver and sucking the blood away so the baby can have a heart attack.

All done!

Of course, those are extremely rare cases, and they’re usually heralded by digestion difficulties: colicky, crying, difficulty swallowing, etc. When I went to see the specialist last month, she told me all this, and I kept thinking about how much baby barf I’ve cleaned in the last five months, and although she kept saying “But I’m confident that’s not your kid,” and I knew, in my heart, that Gillian’s barfiness was just barfiness, my head kept saying, “Yeah, but…” No sweat, though; I made an appointment to get my little five-month-old an ultrasound so we could take a look at all her adorable little organs. Sorry I didn’t mention it to you, Mom, but I wanted to wait.

So yesterday I left work early to truck her out to UCSF Mt. Zion campus, picked up her onesie, and watched her go through the same process I’d gone through for her only five months earlier. She was a trooper, and was fairly patient with the technician smearing warm goo all over her belly and poking around with the wand. By the by: all of their ultrasound rooms have paintings on the ceiling. This one had fish in a lovely brick-bottomed koi pond. How’s that for service?

As I dressed her, the tech let me know the radiologist would be going over the pictures, writing a report, and we’d hear from our doctor in a week or so… and then the radiologist came in and said, “She’s fine,” with a wave of his hand.

So I get an even better birthday present than a singalong viewing of Labyrinth: Gillian’s cute little spleen is blemish-free.

P.S. More news on Labyrinth on Monday. There will be photos, oh, yes.

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6 Responses to Mmm, strawberries! Yuck, strawberry hemangiomas.

  1. Jody says:

    I think I smiled a lot, and then booked my tucchus out the door. Grateful as I was, I am very, very tired of men in white coats.

  2. Melinda says:

    yikes! That kid is keeping us on our toes I guess. Thank god that radiologist didn’t make you wait a week. What a hero. I hope you gave him a big French kiss!

  3. Ashley says:

    I was born with a rather large one on my hair line right smack dab in the center. They are kind of scary looking and yep people freaked out about mine to my mom. Hair still doesn’t grow well where mine was, there’s a nickel size spot that kind of softer than the rest of my head! You totally can’t notice though unless I point it out. Mine was gone before I was 3 and it was about quarter size at it’s biggest.

  4. Nicole says:

    Awesome news that all is OK. My daughter (22 months) has two, one on her belly and one on her back in the EXACT same spots. Like, if you took your finger and poked it right through her on her belly hemangioma, it would come out the other side smack in the center of the back one. So weird. And, trust me, for a long time I thought it went right through her and worried that there were a bunch more inside her. Then, when she was 5 months hold, her nipple started bleeding. Yup, little baby nipple dripping blood. I freaked out. Pediatrician sent us for an ultrasound, and everyone concluded that she had one under her nipple too (but no other internal ones, as far as we know). Anyway, the grew bigger and puffier, but are now going away. They’re sort of breaking apart, with little specks of normal skin showing up within them. Incidentally, someone saw her belly the other day and asked me if it was a tattoo. WTF? So, ya, I understand your worry, but they are harmless, and they do go away :)

  5. Jody says:

    YIKE! Thanks for the heads-up on the possible nipple-bleeding. I would be completely wigged out if MY nipple start bleeding, no less my baby’s!

  6. Nicole says:

    Well, the doctor did say to me “if your nipple was bleeding, I’d be concerned, but a baby? Not so much”. That was only somewhat reassuring though because she also said “but I’ve never seen anything like this before, so I’m going to send her for an ultrasound”.

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