For a woman about to give birth, the worst thing she could possibly hear is, “There seems to be a problem.”
On April 11, with more than 30 doctors surrounding her, Erin Everett, 23, a former Waynesburg woman, gave birth to a son, Wyatt William Wansor. It was a delivery that quickly became a specialized one due to the delicate condition of the newborn baby.
“It was terrifying. I had no idea if he was going to make it or if I was going to make it,” she said. “When I woke up he was gone. They took him to Children’s Hospital (in Lawrenceville) right after and I didn’t get to see him for two days.” Everett was about three miles away at Magee Womens Hospital.
There were no problems with her pregnancy, that is, until a routine ultrasound revealed what turned out to be a lymphatic malformation. A lymphatic malformation is a mass in the head or neck that results from an abnormal formation of lymphatic vessels. Lymphatic vessels are small canals that lie near blood vessels and help carry tissue fluids from within the body to the lymph nodes and back to the bloodstream, according to Children’s Hospital.
At that first ultrasound, like most first-time parents, Everett was excited. She believed it would simply result in her finding out the sex of her unborn child. Instead, she was told there may be a problem.
“They said they saw something on his neck. I was 18 weeks pregnant. After that I began to have ultrasounds once a week. They were watching really carefully until they found out a little bit more and then a little more,” she said. “They told me that everything they said was basically a guess. It is a genetic condition, not hereditary. It is a rare birth defect when the fetus is forming its lymphatic system. Something just didn’t go right.”
Everett originally intended to deliver Wyatt at West Penn Hospital. When the malformation showed itself, she was forced to change her plans. Magee and Children’s Hospitals were consulted and they worked together to establish the game plan to bring Wyatt into the world.
Since his birth two months ago, Wyatt has been through quite a bit. The lymphatic tissue under his tongue was affected and required debulking. Debulking is a procedure Wyatt will undergo multiple times as doctors work to remedy the large malformation on the right side of his neck and face. It is essentially the removal of a portion of the mass. They will take as much as he can handle at one time, Everett said.
Along with the debulking, Wyatt’s treatment also involves schlerotherapy, a less invasive procedure, where a needle is inserted into the area to chemically shrink it. But a month ago, while preparing to go home, Wyatt developed an infection.
“We left the hospital for four days and went to the Children’s home starting to prepare to go home when he developed the infections. We’ve been back here (at Children’s Hospital) since May 19,” she said.
A drain had to be surgically inserted to remove fluid buildup to relive the pain and discomfort brought on by the infection. Physicians followed the procedure with three days of schlerotherapy to the area.
“They can’t remove every single (cyst). There are a lot of smaller ones inside the large one,” Everett said. “There will still be traces left for the rest of his life. It technically won’t all go away, but from a cosmetic standpoint he’ll look perfectly normal.”
Everett said the traces mean Wyatt is more susceptible for infections in those areas as he ages. Right now, the focus is on getting Wyatt ready to go home to await his procedures every couple of months. Although Wyatt has managed to take a bottle, he is still not taking in as much nutrients as doctors would like. Everett said the experience is not a very pleasant one for her son. To help, on June 14, a gastrostomy tube, or G-Tube, was inserted into Wyatt’s abdomen that carries fluids and calories directly to his stomach.
“They really don’t know how long it will take (to remove the malformation). They will remove as much as they can each time until his body has (signaled it’s) had enough,” she said. “The doctors are estimating another six months or so but it could be more or less.”
Everett and her mother, Elaina Zitny, have both been certified to take care of Wyatt’s tracheotomy tube. Zitny works full time so Everett will be placing her career as a financial planner on hold to handle the primary care of Wyatt. She currently lives with Zitny in her Washington home.
“Wyatt has been amazing. He sometimes looks like he is in pain but I think that’s because it’s heavy. But, that’s all he knows. Once it’s removed he will probably realize that. He’s a happy baby other than that,” she said. “We’re so lucky he’s fixable. I look around the hospital at some of the other kids and we’re really lucky. We are blessed to have him in the situation he’s in. It could be a lot worse.”