Surgery Saves Girl’s Face from Rare Disorder

February 24, 2011

christine-honeycutt-before

When Christine Honeycutt was five years old, one side of her face seemed to mysteriously stop growing.
Courtesy Vicki Honeycutt
By Amanda Gardner

The line in the middle of Christine Honeycutt’s forehead was barely noticeable at first. It was a faint gray smudge, just a half-inch long from top to bottom.

“It looked like she ran into a doorjamb, which kids do,” says Christine’s mother, Vicki. But the five-year-old swore she’d done no such thing.

When she looked closer, Vicki also noticed what appeared to be a small bruise or birthmark on the left side of her daughter’s neck. That, too, seemed like nothing, but when the marks didn’t go away after a couple of weeks, Vicki took Christine to the doctor.

“It’s just a discoloration,” the pediatrician said, giving Vicki a cream. “Keep her out of the sun and put this on it.”

The cream didn’t work. Five months later, the gray line was still there—and it now extended halfway down Christine’s forehead.

The Honeycutts consulted a second doctor—this time in southern California, where the family had recently moved from Charlotte, N.C.—and received the same advice. Vicki wasn’t reassured, but she wasn’t unduly worried, either. Christine was otherwise healthy, and she seemed to be enjoying kindergarten at her new school.

Then, in first grade, Christine started inexplicably gaining weight and suffered a violent seizure at home one evening, losing consciousness and convulsing. The ER doctors who treated her concluded that the seizure had been brought on by the 102-degree fever she’d been running, but Vicki suspected it wasn’t that simple.

A surprising diagnosis
Within a few months of the seizure, the line on Christine’s forehead stretched down to her eyebrow and looked more like an indentation than a shadow. People were noticing. One of Christine’s teachers told her to wipe the ink off her forehead. “I can’t,” she replied. “It’s always there.”

There were other troubling signs: One side of Christine’s forehead was normal, but the other was “meaty,” Vicki recalls. And her ears looked out of proportion to one another—an asymmetry that seemed to extend over her entire face.

“One side of her face looked like a baby,” Vicki says. “It looked like one side of her face was growing and the other was not.”

As it turns out, that’s exactly what was happening.

Next page: A one-in-a-million condition



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