A TOT who developed a serious skull deformity just weeks after being born, will celebrate his first Christmas at home following life-changing surgery.
Hours after a normal birth in February, Clayton Strand’s parents noticed his head looked swollen, but this was put down to the delivery.
By the time the Downhill youngster had his six-week development check, his head was bigger than expected and, according to his family, was “shaped like a rugby ball”.
He was diagnosed with craniosynostosis, a condition which affects how the bones in the skull grow, causing the head to develop a long, narrow shape.
Mum Natalie, 29, said: “When Clayton was born, a hat you would put on a six-month old baby didn’t fit him.
“We were told to give it some time because it was swelling from the birth, but when nothing changed, we mentioned it to the health visitors and ran it by our doctor.”
Clayton was sent for tests at Sunderland Royal Hospital’s neo-natal unit and later the RVI in Newcastle.
On being diagnosed with craniosynostosis, the family were told he would need an operation at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
“I knew there were dangers of the operation,” added Natalie, “but if things continued the way we were, his brain could have been squashed, causing serious damage.
“I was in two minds whether he should have it at one time, but we realised that it was for the best, and it was the right thing to do for him.”
Natalie and Clayton’s dad George, 43, who are both unemployed, struggled to meet the costs to go with their son, but they were helped by the family’s health visitor, Diane Watson.
Diane, who works for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, helped them to get funding from Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity to cover their daily living expenses while they were there and arranged for Birmingham Children’s Hospital to reimburse most of their travel expenses.
The hospital also provided them with accommodation.
A gruelling but successful five-hour operation took place on October 31, and although Clayton suffered side effects, including an allergic reaction due to the medication he was being given, he returned home to Sunderland less than a week later and is now preparing for his first Christmas surrounded by his loving family, which includes big sisters Leah, 11, and Laurie, eight.
“A lot of what has happened to Clayton has gone over Laurie’s head, but Leah understands things and she is making a real fuss over him,” added Natalie.
“She uses every spare minute she has to play with him because they are really close.”
Clayton will now continue his recovery ahead of check-ups at Sunderland before another trip to Birmingham in March.
“As far as the doctors can see, at the moment everything is looking good for him,” said Natalie.
“But there is still a 50/50 chance he will have a speech impediment and he might have to wear glasses.
“We just have to wait and see.”
Natalie and George have also said they will be looking to raise money for Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity as a thank you for their help over the past few months.