Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Story in the Sacramento Bee

Haitian baby comes through brain surgery in Sacramento
By Dorsey Griffith -
Published 12:17 am PDT Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Story appeared in METRO section, Page B4

Alex rests in the lap of host mother on Monday after the baby had neurosurgery at Sutter Memorial Hospital.
Carl Costas /

After the bandages came off Monday, it seemed Alex somehow knew the worst was over.

With his dark eyes darting around the room at Sutter Memorial Hospital, and a big, gummy grin, the Haitian infant showed he had come through a four-hour brain surgery like a champ.

Now the real healing can begin.

Wearing a tiny green hospital gown, the 4-month-old sat in the lap of his volunteer host mother, who had brought him from Haiti to Sacramento for the donated surgery.

On Friday, neurosurgeon Sam Ciricillo repaired a hole in the baby's skull that had allowed part of his brain to push out and form a bubble over his nose. The deformity is called an encephalocele.

It was the infant's second trip to Sacramento and to Sutter Memorial.

Last month, Ciricillo inserted a shunt into the baby's brain to drain fluid accumulating around the encephalocele, relieve dangerous pressure and prepare him for surgery.

Jean Alex made the trip in the arms of Kim, a Washington state resident and volunteer with the Medical Advocacy Team, a program of Remember International Inc.

The nonprofit group recruits American surgeons and hospitals to provide free care to children who otherwise have no access to medical expertise in their own countries.

An American nurse who runs a clinic in rural Haiti where the baby was first seen, said children with facial deformities such as Alex's are often shunned. In rural areas, parents of children with such abnormalities are encouraged to let the babies die.

To repair the problem, Ciricillo said he made an ear-to-ear incision across the top of the baby's skull, removed part of his skull and then cut out the damaged tissue. He also made an incision over the top of the baby's nose to remove additional brain tissue before repairing the hole with bone material.

On Monday, the bubble was still visible above Alex's nose, but only because of expected swelling from the surgery, Ciricillo said.

Alex will be discharged from the hospital today and will remain with his host family in Washington another four to six months to ensure no complications arise.

Ciricillo said only time will tell whether the baby will suffer seizures as a result of brain damage caused by the deformity.

For information on the Medical Advocacy Team or to make a donation, go to

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