When Maddie had been in the NICU for about a month, the nurses were letting her sleep on her tummy to help with her swelling. Mike and I noticed a little red spot on her back by her left shoulder blade. We thought it was a bed sore, so we called the nurse over. She looked at it and then got the attending doctor, who told us it was a hemangioma. This attending assumed that all parents knew every medical term there was, so she didn’t bother explaining what a hemangioma WAS, other than to say it would get bigger and then go away. Mike and I looked at each other like, hem-an-ja-whatta? And then with the stress of the NICU, we promptly forgot about it.

A week or two later, one of Maddie’s primary night nurses helped us give Maddie a bath and brought up the red spot. I hadn’t even thought about it since we’d first discovered it. I looked at it, and it was much different. It went from one spot to two, it was swollen…and it was kind of ugly. Her nurse printed up a bunch of information on hemangiomas, and I took it all home to read with a warning from her, “don’t do a Google search on them!” So of course I did. I immediately found out why she said that – there are lots of pictures of hemangiomas on the internet, and holy cow, some are horrifying.

Maddie's HemangiomaSo what IS a hemangioma, anyway? I’ll tell you so you don’t have to Google it. A hemangioma is a benign tumour of the cells that line blood vessels. They are connected to the circulatory system and filled with blood. Hemangiomas are the most common childhood tumor occurring in approximately ten percent of Caucasians, and are less prevalent in other races. Females are three to five times more likely to have hemangiomas than males. About eighty percent are located on the face and neck, with the next most prevalent location being the liver. No one knows what causes them. This is a picture of Maddie’s hemangioma.

The good news is, they eventually go away on their own, and they leave little or no visible marks. Maddie is so lucky hers is on her back. On her face or neck would be a pain, we’re already sick of explaining why she’s so small for her age so we’re glad we don’t have to give details about something else. Some hemangiomas are internal, and those can be really scary. If they are in the lungs or throat, surgery is necessary. Thank goodness she caught a break there.

Maddie’s pediatrician (who I must always say is amazing whenever her name comes up) wanted Maddie to go to a dermatologist just to make sure everything was copacetic with her hemangioma. Mike took her today, and the derma doc actually thought that the mark looked a little purplish, which is a good sign – it means that it should probably start to get smaller, or at the very least, not bigger. She thought that Maddie’s hemangioma would be completely gone by the time she was two. Yay!

Someday Maddie is probably going to be horrified I put that picture on the internet. Maybe next week I’ll show her chest tube scars just to really turn the screws.