Just after Carolyn Treanor gave birth to triplets at 30 weeks, she noticed that one of the three baby girls had a tiny, heart-shaped pink spot between her eyes. She and her husband, Jason, were actually grateful for the spot: Two of the girls were identical; without the facial mark, Sydney would have been nearly indistinguishable from her sister Kelsey.
Doctors identified the mark as a hemangioma, a mound-like collection of blood vessels usually present at birth. This kind of birthmark, which affects about one in 50 babies and is more common among girls and preemies, grows rapidly for eight to ten months and then tends to shrink over time. "I wasn't worried about it-at that point, it really wasn't very big," Carolyn says. By the time Sydney was 3 months old, however, the hemangioma was the size of a marble; when she reached 6 months, it had grown dramatically larger.
Fearing that the birthmark might affect Sydney's brain, the couple, who were living in North Carolina at the time, consulted Michael J. Denk, M.D., a Virginia Beach, Virginia, plastic surgeon who specializes in pediatrics. A CAT scan showed that Sydney's brain and skull were fine but that the birthmark would probably not disappear on its own. Dr. Denk told them that about 70 percent of hemangiomas on the face and head require treatment. He suggested removing it sooner rather than later because young children recover more quickly from surgery and tend to scar less. And Sydney's hemangioma was already attracting attention. "What's that thing on her face?" a little boy at the pediatrician's office wanted to know, pointing at Sydney. She was still too young to understand the comments and stares, but her parents knew that would change in a few short years.
Two months later, Sydney underwent surgery to remove what was by then a walnut-size growth. The Treanors were thrilled with the results-and with the way that Sydney, free of the vision-obstructing bulge between her eyes, seemed to view the world in a new way. Today, a tiny scar between her eyes is the only reminder that Sydney, now 2, had such dramatic surgery as a baby. "I can't tell Sydney and Kelsey apart anymore. I have to really look closely to see who's got the scar," Carolyn says.