You’d never know now that as a baby Paige’s head was misshapen

A child receiving a kiss on the cheek from a parent

At first, Erica Dill didn’t worry about a little bump on her baby’s head.

“Our pediatrician didn’t want to alarm me,” says Erica, a single mother from Brooklyn, Wisconsin. “She just thought it would be good to have it checked out,” she says.

Paige Dill was just 3½ months old when Erica brought her baby girl to UW Health’s American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison in late 2014. There, Paige was closely examined by Pediatric Neurosurgeon Bermans Iskandar, MD, and Pediatric Plastic Surgeon Delora Mount, MD.

Dr. Iskandar and Dr. Mount immediately recognized that Paige had sagittal craniosynostosis, referring to a condition affecting about 1 in 2,500 newborns.  

“The head of these newborns does not form properly because the bones on top of the skull fuse together too soon, preventing the head from expanding side to side,” says Dr. Iskandar. “The skull at this age is nowhere near solid bone, so this anomaly causes the head to become long and skinny from front to back.” he says. “The only way to correct this deformity is by doing surgery to separate the fused bones, which frees up the skull to gradually assume its normal shape.”

Erica, understandably, was shocked by this diagnosis. She was also fearful about the idea of her little girl having invasive surgery on her head. Compounding her stress was the failing health of her stepfather, Mitchell Compton, who, at age 50, was dying of cancer at the time.

Lot of tears

“There were a lot of tears,” she recalls. “I thought I might have done something wrong during Paige’s delivery. I was also anxious about the surgeons having to drill into Paige’s head, but they assured me this is something they see regularly, and it is something that would not be noticeable once corrected.

Even more comforting for Erica was hearing that Paige was a good candidate for the endoscopic form of surgery, a minimally invasive alternative to conventional open surgery.

“Endoscopic surgery has the best chance of success in babies like Paige who are less than 6 months old,” says Dr. Mount. “It also results in less risk, a much smaller scar and faster recovery than open surgery. She is one of many children who have been treated endoscopically with great success at American Family Children’s Hospital.”

Paige did great in surgery

Paige’s surgery went very smoothly. Within just a few weeks, her head began to assume a more rounded shape.

“She spent three nights in the hospital and recovered amazingly well,” says Erica. “We had to keep her home for a month to be sure her head did not get jostled, but then she was able to go back to day care.”

Today, Paige is a spunky 5-year-old with a personality Erica likes to call just a bit sassy.

“Every other day, she has a new best friend,” says Erica. “I just can’t figure out where she gets the sassiness.”

Having had time to reflect on the experience, Erica recalls being overwhelmed by the emotions of five years ago.

“My stepfather died in January 2015, just 11 days after Paige’s surgery,” she says. “It was hard seeing him pass away so young. He lived just long enough to see Paige get through the surgery, but I feel his spirit with me every day.”

Erica also won’t forget her co-workers at the UW Health Radiology clinic at 1 S. Park St. in Madison, who collected more than $1,000 to help cover Paige’s medical bills.

“My co-workers have been so great, especially with me being a single parent,” says Erica. “Paige got such wonderful care, and she just went to her last checkup with Dr. Iskandar and Dr. Mount who said they don’t need to see her anymore. That was a nice way to start 2020.”