Plagiocephaly and brachycephaly have both been successfully treated with helmets for many years. Discover some treatment success stories below – simply click a child’s name from the list on the left to view their story.
Parent(s): Charlotte and Rob
Jacob was born approximately seven to eight weeks premature in April 2004 and was in the SCBU for about five weeks. To parents Charlotte and Rob he was perfect, even though he still only weighed about 5lb.
After Jacob had been at home for a while, however, his parents started to notice that he was prone to laying his head to the right, and that a flat spot had appeared on the back of his head. At this point he was being seen once a month at the local hospital for severe reflux. Jacob's parents told their doctor about his head shape and were informed that this was 'normal' in premature babies as they tended to lie on their backs for longer periods. He was also being seen by the health visitor, who didn't seem to think that there was a problem.
As time progressed, the flat spot became more noticeable and Jacob seemed to have difficulty in laying or turning his head to the left. The doctors who saw him either said that it wasn't a problem or that it should improve by the time he was one year old. Charlotte and Rob were advised to place a rolled-up towel on Jacob's right side to try and get him to lay with his head to the left, but unfortunately he didn't want to do this. His head shape wasn't improving, and when his parents mentioned it on each visit to the hospital all the doctors had basically the same message: Not to worry, we have seen worse; We see lots of babies with similar problems; It will grow out.
When Jacob was six months old he was seen by the family's GP for his six-month check-up. At this point the GP commented on his head, seemingly concerned, and wrote a letter for his parents to take to the hospital as he considered Jacob's head shape to be "not normal". Shortly before this assessment Charlotte and Rob had seen a TV programme about twins in New Zealand who had a similar problem, and who were fitted with a helmet; within six months their head shapes were significantly improved. Both parents thought: "Wow, at last something that could help Jacob."
The family relayed this information to the doctor at the hospital, only for it to be ignored and to be told that "the NHS do not do this"! Understandably Jacob's parents felt frustrated and let down by the health service and began to think that they couldn't do anything or get anyone other than their GP to listen to them. Reluctantly they put the issue to the back of their minds, hoping that Jacob's head would improve or at least become less noticeable. In reality of course it wasn't!
On Mother's Day 2005 Rob's mother presented a cutting from the local paper about a local family whose son had been fitted with a helmet, and had subsequently started a website, Headstart4Babies. Jacob's parents looked at the website immediately and then called for further information.
The family was given the name of a specialist – after calling him they sent over some pictures of Jacob's head. The specialist said he could help; he even told the family what Jacob had been like and from what age, all without seeing him. Jacob and his parents flew out to the clinic in Germany the following week, and the helmet was fitted.
As Jacob was nearly a year old by this point, it was important to have the helmet as soon as possible. He has adjusted to his 'special hat' – as his parents call it – very well and will have to wear it for between six to eight months. If anything, it has probably been harder for Charlotte and Rob to adjust to than for Jacob. Rob says: "It has been a hard year since Jacob was born, but now at last we have done everything we can for him."
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