This Christmas a Williams Lake family will be holding each other a little closer.
Their son will undergo surgery on Dec. 10 at Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
“Doctors will open up the back half of Hayden’s skull to give his brain room to grow normally,” Hayden’s mom Lindsey Shewcuk said Monday. “Right now his brain is growing down his spine and is not protected properly.”
Hayden will be three years old in January.
His mom said this summer he started having some headaches.
The headaches didn’t last long, but because Hayden’s speech has been delayed, he couldn’t really say much more than point to his head, Lindsey said.
“Then we had his hair cut and I noticed his head looked different. When you felt it, it looked indented.”
An appointment with their family doctor resulted in a referral to the pediatrician who ordered X-rays.
“That was in September and when the X-rays came back it looked like it was copper beaten skull. It looked like a bag of marbles had been thrown in his head,” Lindsey said.
The pediatrician told them it looked like the brain is pushing against the skull. Between the age of two and three brains grow quite a bit, but it didn’t look like he had a lot of room, Lindsey said.
From there he had a full MRI at Children’s Hospital in Vancouver to see if his brain was either growing too quickly or if his soft spot had fused too quickly.
“It wasn’t fun to have him (anesthetized) but they were great there at Children’s. We met with the neurosurgeons after and they said they wanted to do a CT Scan the next day.”
Results showed some of Hayden’s brain was growing down his spine and there wasn’t a lot of room.
The doctors labelled it Chiari malformation type I, Lindsey said.
“We also saw an opthamologist to make sure there wasn’t any pressure behind his eyes, and that was good, there was no pressure.”
And the MRI came back showing his brain development was normal.
“It was a relief,” Lindsey said.
In advance of his surgery on Dec. 20, he will undergo some pressure tests on Dec. 17.
“From the pressure tests we will know if they are just going to open up the back part of his skull or his whole head.”
Despite the anxiety they are feeling for their little guy, Lindsey and her husband, Daniel, have experienced overwhelming support from the community.
“We have had support from co-workers, from Hayden’s daycare where a family made an anonymous donation. Everywhere we’ve gone people have been so good,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey’s parents, city councillor Laurie Walters and her husband, Todd Walters, are going to spend Christmas in Vancouver and will bring Hayden’s sister five-year-old Kiera along as well.
Laurie said she and Todd are overwhelmed by the support the family has received from the community.
“We have had so much support, love and kindness. We live in a truly amazing community,” she said.
“There have been many people praying for us and we’re grateful.”
Hayden doesn’t really know what’s going on, Lindsey said, but it’s been an emotional roller coaster for the adults in the family. Some days it’s fine to talk about it. Other days are hard.
“You see someone, they ask how it’s going, and I break down.”
One of her cousins in Vancouver knows someone who has donated the use of a condo for the family to stay together at Christmas.
Laurie said being able to stay in the condo will help bring more normalcy for everyone.
“Hopefully Hayden will get out of the hospital on the 24th, we can cook a Christmas dinner there and make it like home.”
Recalling other Christmases, Lindsey said she’s been consumed about what her children wanted for Christmas, whereas this year she’s learned more than ever to be grateful.
“I’ve done toy drives and things before, but have never really focused on what other people go through,” she said.
On Tuesday Lindsey stopped working and pulled Hayden out of daycare to spend time with him before they head down to Vancouver.
“If he gets sick they won’t be able to do anything,” she said, noting the importance of him not catching a cold or flu.
“They could only rebook us.”
Laurie is hopeful the surgery will make Hayden better, and described the whole experience as a gift.
“Christmas is going to be awesome because we’ll all be together,” she said.