Every parent longs for a normal, healthy baby. Holliana Lockhart and her Fiance, Robert Brewer, got their wish — or so they thought.
Brianna Brewer was born Aug. 31, 2013, without a single complication.
“She was a perfectly normal, healthy baby girl,” Lockhart said.
However, approximately two weeks later, one major complication began to form. Lockhart noticed a bruise on Brewer’s upper lip but with two older boys roaming around the house, she wasn’t overly concerned. But just to be safe, Lockhart took her daughter to a local pediatrician.
During the visit, the pediatrician diagnosed Brewer with Hemangioma and referred the 3-year-old child to Columbus Children’s Hospital.
According to Dr. Linda Rozell-Shannon, president and founder of Vascular Birthmarks Foundation (VBF), Hermangioma can be described as a benign vascular tumor. It has a tendency to swell, for years on end, before finally shrinking if surgical options aren’t considered.
Lockhart, a Portsmouth resident, discovered the swelling pretty quickly as Brewer’s lip had already started swelling before they were even able to see the doctors in Columbus. Lockhart was told the swelling was going to increase substantially from the growth rate within the three weeks it took to visit the specialist in Columbus. They said it was going to get very large and they wanted to intervene as fast as possible.
Brewer was given some medicine, which stopped it from growing to it’s full capability but the swelling still increased significantly. Once Brewer began taking medicine, the doctors in Columbus removed the surgical option. Lockhart kept pushing for her daughter to have surgery but her efforts were futile.
“I wanted her to have a normal lip, a normal life,” Lochart said. “But they kept telling me no, ‘we have to wait for it to start shrinking on its own.’ They wouldn’t work with me a bit. They just wanted to keep her on the medicine.”
Finally, Lockhart made one final push in March because Brewer’s lip had started to shrink. However, Lockhart was finally informed that surgery wasn’t an option until Brewer turned 5 years old.
Down and dejected, Lockhart took the news and tried to make the best of the situation. She decided to enroll Brewer into a head start program. Lockhart’s goal was to get her child socially ready for Kindergarten. However, that goal never came to fruition as another child saw Brewer during her enrollment and made a disparaging remark at Brewer’s expense.
Lockhart, who was already apprehensive about enrolling Brewer, took her back home without completing the enrollment process and took to Facebook to vent her frustrations.
Not long after posting her frustrations to a group of mothers on Facebook, Shannon from VBF contacted Lockhart to remedy the situation.
Shannon, who began VBF in 1994 because her daughter also suffered from a vascular birthmark, has helped thousands of families across the world by providing them with resources and by networking different families to the appropriate medical professionals for evaluation and/or treatment.
Although the Vascular Birthmark Foundation had helped thousands of families in the past, something was different with Brewer’s situation. First, it was a milestone for the foundation as it was the 100,000th patient to be given aid and Shannon was looking for the perfect patient to celebrate the milestone. But the similarities didn’t stop there. Brewer’s situation struck a personal tone with Shannon.
“It was a complete flashback (to 1994),” Shannon said. “I was taking my daughter (Kristina) from doctor to doctor because she had a giant Hemangioma on her lip …
“Wasn’t that a perfect patient because it was my story 22 years ago.”
After a back-and-fourth conversation between Lockhart and Shannon, surgery wasn’t only an option but it was a gift. The surgery was scheduled in Miami and the out of pocket expense for Lockhart was zilch. The entire trip, including the surgery, plane tickets and hotel was paid for by a sponsor orchestrated through VBF.
“Disbelief was my first reaction,” Lockhart said. “I had been fighting with Columbus and I had gotten second, third and fourth opinions all over Ohio, and all of them told me we had to wait.
“(VBF) contacted me and said, ‘no, we can take care of this. We could have taken care of this years ago.’ I was in disbelief.”
Lockhart and her fiance Robert Brewer couldn’t believe they were getting the surgery for their little girl, let alone getting it for free.
“It was shock and disbelief because things don’t usually go like that for us,” Lockhart said. “It was really a mixture of emotions. We were told not to post anything on Facebook and not to tell because they wanted to make sure they were able to get everything taken care of but we automatically got on the phones to our families. We were just so excited because we were wanting this for three years for our baby.”
Even though Lockhart was on cloud nine, part of her was still leery of the reality because of the horror stories she had received from previous doctors.
“I wanted to believe them, but part of me didn’t and I was really scared because Columbus and a couple of other doctors had told me she had a 50 percent chance of bleeding to death on the operating table,” Lockhart said. “I kept getting told that, so I stopped looking for the longest time because I was just scared.”
After Lockhart overcame her fears and the misconceptions about the risks of surgery, Brianna Brewer finally had her surgery Dec. 7, performed by Dr. Chad Perlyn, a pediatric plastic surgeon at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital – part of Miami Children’s Health System.
“He said it might be a little swollen for a couple of more years because he didn’t want to leave a huge scar on her upper lip,” Lockhart said. “He promised us that by the time Christmas rolled around, she would have a normal looking smile and there would be no scars visible, and he was completely right.”