Our son Carter Tietz was born with a large mole, medically known as a giant congenital melanocytic nevus, on the middle of his back. His large mole was very rare, as it affects about 1 in 50,000 babies.
We knew from the moment he was born that we would have to address it surgically at some point in his life and the thought of the surgical process weighed on us heavily.
We met with Dr. (Niyant) Patel and Heather Sprouse (nurse practitioner) at Akron Children’s Hospital (Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Center) when Carter was less than 1 year old. At that time we decided that we should have the mole surgically removed because the risk of cancer was high, and we felt the mole would significantly impact Carter’s social life.
We were informed that the removal of Carter’s mole, which was about 8 inches wide and 6 inches tall, would be somewhat of a long process as the skin around his mole would need to be expanded in order to remove such a large area of skin.
The first part of the process consisted of adding the expanders under his skin around both sides of the mole. The first surgery was an outpatient procedure that required full anesthesia, but Dr. Patel and the surgical staff made the process less stressful by having constant communication with us before, during, and after the procedure.
Carter handled the surgery amazingly well, as he was up playing and smiling the same night after the procedure.
As the incisions healed from the addition of the expanders, we began making weekly trips to see Heather and Dr. Patel for expansion of the expanders in his back. This process consisted of injections of sterile saline into ports into both of his expanders. The ports were located on the side of his torso and had tubing that connected to each expander. We would apply numbing cream to his ports about 1 hour before his injections.
Some visits Carter would act like he never noticed the injections, but other expansions weren’t so easy – mostly because he did not want to be held that long. We went for a total of 8 injections in each port.
We were very nervous about him puncturing the expanders during the entire process, but thankfully that never happened. Dr. Patel told us that a puncture is very rare, but we were always stressed out about how rough Carter played at home with his toys.
It’s hard to explain, but you can think of the expanders as medical-grade water balloons. As the expanders were filled with more fluid each week, his good skin would continue to grow and stretch in order to accommodate the expansion. As the expanders became very large, we noticed that Carter had difficulty with his balance while walking and was unable to roll over from his back. We also had to purchase larger clothing and adjust his car seat so he could fit into the car.
After Carter was fully expanded, we waited about 1 month for the removal of mole and both expanders. Because the mole was so large, we were unsure if it would be able to be removed with 1 surgery.
Thankfully, Dr. Patel was able to remove the entire mole with one procedure! We were so shocked that we instantly began to cry when Dr. Patel told us the news during our post-operative meeting.
We stayed the night with Carter in the hospital after the surgery because of how long and intense the procedure was. However, the next morning Carter was up dancing and playing in the hospital room, which made us feel much better.
We had a small setback a week after Carter was discharged, as some of his skin died near the edges of the incision. Dr. Patel said this was possible and immediately scheduled us for a small procedure to fix the incisions.
Although it seems like a very challenging process – don’t get me wrong, it was very difficult at times – the entire team at Pediatric Plastic Surgery was outstanding during every step of the way. Carter would always be excited to see Dr. Patel, Heather, and all of the nurses.
It was so nice and refreshing to see how much they cared about Carter at every visit. It honestly seemed like they enjoyed seeing him as much as he enjoyed going to his appointments. It sounds crazy to say this with everything Carter went through, but it is the honest truth!
Carter is now healed up completely, and we are doing our best to reduce scarring from the incisions. We are so thankful for the amazing care our son received and can’t imagine the process going any better. We hope that our story provides insight and comfort to other families going through a similar situation.