A mother has been left unable to touch her daughter’s head – after the tot had her skull sliced in half during a gruelling operation.
Eighteen-month-old Charlie Stokoe, from Hendon, was born with craniosynostosis – meaning she had a misshapen head – which needed surgery to prevent her developing brain damage.
When she was little more than a year old, doctors had to slice open her “bicycle helmet”-shaped head, cutting her from ear to ear, breaking and reshaping the front of her skull.
But following the intensive six-hour procedure to reshape her head at Birmingham Children’s Hospital on May 21 this year, little Charlie was left with a crippling fear of being people going near her head.
“Charlie was so tiny that hearing details of the surgery was terrifying,” mum Jenna Stokoe said.
“She’s such a strong little girl, but since the operation she screams if people touch her head.
Charlie is such a tough cookie. She’s been through so much, so young, but does her best not to let it phase her.Jenna Stokoe
“She’s also terrified of people in blue as she associates it with the doctors’ and nurses’ uniforms.
“The other day, a window cleaner came round wearing a blue top and Charlie started screaming.”
The 31-year-old – a full- time mother to Annalea Earley, three, and stepaughter Kellsey Douthwaite, seven – is unable to touch her daughters head after the traumatic surgery.
Born six weeks prematurely on February 17, 2014, when she grew too large for Miss Stokoe to be able to safely carry her, medics are still unsure as to what caused Charlie to suffer from the condition.
After being delivered via emergency caesarean section, she was rushed to neonatal intensive care, where she remained for three weeks.
Noticing her unusually shaped skull, doctors at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, ran a series of MRI and CT scans to ensure she had not been brain damaged. In June 2014 she was diagnosed with craniosynostosis.
“We were told she had one of the most severe cases doctors had ever seen,” her mother said.
“The soft spot on her head was twice the size it should have been. If her skull had carried on growing, it would have caused brain damage.
“The gap between the brain and skull just above Charlie’s eyes was really narrow, so doctors said they needed to operate soon.
“It was tough to hear. I also couldn’t help but worry about the cosmetic side of the condition.
“Obviously, it made her look different, and I didn’t want her to grow up being bullied because of that,” added Jenna.
The family faced a tense wait for Charlie to grow strong enough for surgery in May, with the baby returning home six days later.
Now, the youngster is recovering well but her surgery has left a large scar spanning the top of her head, which Miss Stokoe and Charlie’s dad Colin Douthwaite, 41, must clean every day to avoid infection.
Her parents hope her fears will fade over time.
“It’s tricky at the moment being so hot, as she won’t let us put a hat on her,” said Miss Stokoe.
“We have to keep the hood of her buggy up and use a parasol to stop her getting burnt.
“Hopefully as she recovers, she’ll get more used to her head being touched.
“ It’s going to take a year to fully heal, but it looks as if surgery was a success.
“Charlie is such a tough cookie. She’s been through so much, so young, but does her best not to let it phase her.”
Craniosynostosis is a rare skull problem that causes a baby to be born with, or develop, an abnormally shaped head.
The irregular skull shape in craniosynostosis can cause persistent headaches, learning difficulties, eye problems and other symptoms.
Most symptoms develop in later childhood.
The symptoms of craniosynostosis usually result from increased pressure within the skull, which is called intracranial pressure (ICP).
Different types of craniosynostosis can be described based on the areas of the skull affected and the resulting changes in shape.