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Ella’s story: Craniofacial surgery

Ella’s story: Craniofacial surgery

Ella, 2 years old“On Thanksgiving Day 2008 our daughter Ella developed a swelling over her eye. It didn't go away after a few days so we took her to the doctor. Over the next couple of weeks, it remained the same but didn't go away. We took her to the doctor multiple times and each time there was a new theory on what it was that was causing it (allergies, bruising from falling, etc.). After trying different remedies (treatments), we were referred to an ear nose and throat doctor when her condition didn't improve. He sent her to have a CT scan. What we found was devastating. There was a mass above her eye invading the bone of her skull. It had caused a hole in her skull. We needed to see a specialist.

We were referred to another hospital for the next week, but our oldest daughter was treated at VCU when she was a baby by Dr. John Ward and we knew we could trust them with the care of Ella. We traveled four hours the next day to VCU's emergency room. Ella's eye had completely swollen shut overnight. The doctors had many theories that it could be an infection or an abscess (collection of fluid) or a tumor (abnormal growth of cells). Ella was admitted that evening and the next day we met with Dr. Jennifer Rhodes and Dr. Gary Tye.

Surgery was our only option. She had surgery on December 22, 2008. They took the mass out and reconstructed the bone. We were terrified that the mass would be cancerous but they were able to remove all of it and now we just needed to get her feeling better and wait for the biopsy report (exam of the tissue taken from her body) to see what our next step would be.

Ella, 1 week after surgery

She was in intensive care after the surgery and wasn't able to see at all due to swelling from the surgery. Here it was only a couple of days from Christmas and our poor little girl had surgery and what we thought was cancer as well. 

On Christmas Eve, Dr. Rhodes came in to see Ella. Her philosophy was that keeping Ella in the hospital was just keeping her sick and she wanted us to take her home for Christmas. We were terrified since it was only two days since she had surgery, but we wanted to try.

We waited for discharge instructions and just as we were leaving the hospital we received a call. It was Dr. Rhodes. She had left the hospital but she wanted to call because she had talked to the pathologist and wanted to us know our daughter had a granuloma (a small area of inflammation) and it was not cancerous. It was the best news we could have possibly had.

We drove home on top of the world. Here we thought we would spend the Christmas holiday in the hospital and instead we came home and were able to enjoy Christmas at home with our family.    

Ella, 3 years oldTo look at Ella now, a year and a half later, you would never know anything had happened. She is a very active and enthusiastic three-year-old with an amazing zest for life. Ella had a large scar from her surgery due to the size and location of the mass but Dr. Rhodes did an amazing job of concealing it in her hairline and in her eyebrow.

I feel if we had gone anywhere else the results could have been quite different.

The care given by Dr. Rhodes and Dr. Tye and their wonderful staff was extraordinary. Dr. Rhodes and Dr. Tye's coordinators, Ruth and Joann, were amazing as well. They all have an amazing amount of compassion and love for their patients and a love for what they do.”

We are eternally thankful for the wonderful treatment Ella was given here at VCU Medical Center. ”

-Wendy and Brian Johnston, Ella’s parents


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