Brave William’s bouncing back

Just weeks after his first birthday, toddler William Hutchcraft underwent a 10-hour operation to remove and re-shape sections of his skull.

Diagnosed with a skull deformity at just seven weeks old, shortly after his first birthday he underwent a 10-hour operation to break the bones in his head and fuse the pieces back together.

“After a routine trip to hospital we were told there was a problem. It is the most terrifying thing a parent could hear,” said his mother Alison.

“We were told William’s skull had fused too soon, his brain did not have space to grow and he would need extensive surgery.”

William was diagnosed with craniosynostosis, a condition caused by the joins in his skull bones closing too early, meaning that his head had become abnormally-shaped.

William is now a happy and healthy toddler, but Alison and husband Gavin, of Ramsey Mereside, want to raise awareness of a condition that affects one in 5,000 births.

“He needed the operation to relieve the pressure on his brain. Despite the diagnosis, we had to wait, as you can’t operate on it until 10 months,” she said.

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The only way to re-shape William’s head was for him to undergo a 10-hour operation involving three surgeons, in which they removed a section of bone.

“They take out every section of skull, and cut it into pieces. Then they have to reform the skull with wiring and plates to make sure it takes the correct shape.”

William’s case was especially severe as it required surgeons to remove bone at the back of his skull, an area avoided where possible.

“There’s a blood vessel that runs down the back of the neck, and if that is touched then there’s nothing they can do,” said Alison, 33. “That’s why they often don’t go anywhere near there. They had no choice with William.”

After a specialist MRI scan – Alder Hey’s scanner is the only one of its kind in Europe – surgeons drew on to William’s head the paths of the major blood vessels and he was taken into theatre to operate, with Alison and Gavin anxiously waiting for news.

And when it came, it was good news: the operation had been a success. William spent two days in the high dependency unit and was then moved to the hospital’s neuro-surgical unit.

During William’s recovery at Alder Hey, Alison and Gavin stayed at Ronald McDonald house, their “home from home”. The facility provides accommodation for families of children in hospital, and is reliant on donations to pay its �9,000-a-week costs.

“For two days William’s eyes were swollen shut, and that was when he was most distressed, but he had pain control,” said Alison.

“Within four days he was up and walking around with us.”

Since then, William’s recovery has gone smoothly, with help from his big sister Eva.

“We didn’t bring her to see him in hospital as we thought it would be too upsetting. But now he is home, she knows she has to look after him and she is so kind and caring to William,” said Alison.

Despite her background as a nurse, Alison had not heard of craniosynostosis before William was born, and believes not enough is known about the condition among parents.

“Since William was diagnosed we have spoken to other parents all over the country,” she said. “They have been a Godsend.”

She hopes that she can raise money and awareness to help other parents, and has organised a fundraising day on Saturday (September 24).

The event at the playing field at Ramsey Mereside begins at 3pm when 11 friends will join William for a sponsored toddle, and there will be a barbecue, raffle, lucky dip, cake stall and face painting.

The target of �2,000 will be split between Ronald McDonald House at Alder Hey and the hospital’s charity, the Imagine appeal, which bought the MRI scanner used before William’s operation.

“Staying in a specialist children`s hospital is something you hope you will never have to do but we have come away feeling very lucky,” said Alison.

“This is our way of thanking them and recognising the fantastic work that they do.”

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