On your marks

Parents Canada - - Baby - KINJAL DAGLI SHAH

When Shivali Bha­tia gave birth to iden­ti­cal twin girls,

Aditi and Avani, it was easy for vis­i­tors to iden­tify them cor­rectly. Both ba­bies de­vel­oped an in­fan­tile he­man­gioma, but in dif­fer­ent spots; Aditi’s straw­berry-red mark ap­peared on the back while Avani has a prom­i­nent one on her cheek. “We didn’t no­tice any­thing when they were born at 31 weeks,” says Bha­tia, who lives in Toronto. “They were in the NICU and on the third day, I saw a small, pim­ple-like spot on Avani’s cheek. The next morn­ing, it had grown to a pea-sized boil. Ev­ery day, for the first few weeks, it grew a lit­tle more un­til it was the size of a bright red straw­berry.”

Dr. John Freed­man, pe­di­a­tri­cian at the Thorn­hill Pae­di­atric and Ado­les­cent Clinic, says that a straw­berry he­man­gioma is a growth formed due to an ab­nor­mal col­lec­tion of blood ves­sels and grad­u­ally fades away on its own. “It usu­ally starts de­vel­op­ing in­side the uterus. It starts evolv­ing and be­comes most prom­i­nent when the baby is three to five months of age. In 90 per­cent of the cases, the he­man­gioma doesn’t need to be treated and goes away on its own.” The name of the he­man­gioma, also known as a straw­berry mark, is self-ex­plana­tory be­cause the sur­face looks bright red like the fruit.

Bha­tia and her hus­band Raj were as­sured by nurses at the NICU that straw­berry he­man­giomas are gen­er­ally harm­less and can be left alone. How­ever, they were given the op­tion for a con­sul­ta­tion at Sick­kids Hospi­tal in Toronto. “Since our twins were pre­emies, we wanted to make sure there was noth­ing to worry about. The doc­tors at Sick­kids as­sured us that straw­berry he­man­giomas of this kind are pretty com­mon and are best left alone.

There was al­ways a chance of scar­ring if we tin­kered with it, so we de­cided to let it be.”

Aditi and Avani are now four-and-a-half years old, and while Aditi’s mark on the back is nearly gone, Avani’s still re­mains vis­i­ble. “The he­man­giomas started shrink­ing when the girls were a year old. Now, Avani’s can barely be seen. Aditi still has it but the colour has changed from a bright red to brown so it is blend­ing with her skin,” says Bha­tia. “It has al­ways been a topic of con­ver­sa­tion. When­ever peo­ple would visit them as ba­bies, it came up of­ten be­cause Aditi’s he­man­gioma was so promi­nently lo­cated on the face. At birth­day par­ties and when the girls started pres­chool, it was al­ways no­ticed. Some hes­i­tate to ask while oth­ers are too out­spo­ken and make it their first ques­tion. Lit­tle ones some­times get cu­ri­ous and want to touch it.” Bha­tia has also been told, of­ten by com­plete strangers, that her daugh­ters are con­sid­ered very lucky be­cause they have birth­marks.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Freed­man, all he­man­giomas fade by age five or six and are com­pletely gone by age 10. “Un­less the he­man­gioma is in a spot where doc­tors feel it will in­ter­fere with body func­tion, there is no treat­ment needed. In se­vere cases, where in­ter­nal or­gan func­tions are in­volved, a med­i­ca­tion called Pro­pra­nolol is ad­min­is­tered,” he says.

For Aditi, the straw­berry mark has be­come a part of her iden­tity, and what makes her unique. When she draws a pic­ture of her fam­ily, she en­sures her face has the birth­mark.

In­fan­tile he­man­giomas, or “straw­berry marks”, will fade over time.

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