When Kari Westphal was just 18 weeks pregnant, she received the scary news that her baby had an abnormality due to a build up of lymph fluid. And unfortunately, when the baby grew, so did the tumor. Months later, when it was time for Kari to deliver her baby boy, the mass had grown so much that doctors feared it would put pressure on his windpipe.
Kari was prepared for the worst and she had four months to think about the frightening situation. She ended up giving birth to a baby boy named Bennett and while she was immensely happy with the new addition to her family, baby Bennett had to spend the first month of his life undergoing various surgeries designed to shrink the mass.
The first month after having a baby is hard enough without all the surgeries, so imagine what Kari and her husband had to go through. They couldn’t hold Bennett and bond with him the way most parents do with their newborn.
“We couldn’t even hold him for a while,” Kari said. “We couldn’t take him home and we needed help changing his diaper and other people were taking care of my baby for me, which was hard.”
While the month of surgeries was a challenging thing to endure, the hardest part came after Bennett was released and free to go home. Whenever Kari and her husband took the baby boy out in public, people would stop them and ask questions when they saw the size of his swollen cheek. They would be blunt and ask what was wrong with him, which is a hard thing for a parent to hear.
“People would stop us in public and ask questions,” Kari explained. “Kids can be cruel so I think that was my main concern. Would he be able to handle people staring and asking him questions?”
When Bennet was 13 months old, doctors had another idea for a procedure that would remove the majority of the tumor, however, they said that the nerves outlining his mouth could end up damaged if something went wrong.
The Westphal family took the chance and went forward with the surgery. Luckily, all went well and there was no damage to his nerves. He looks like a normal baby and instead of a cheek filled with fluid, he has chubby baby cheeks and no longer gets stopped or pointed at when he is in public.
While baby Bennett had to undergo a three hour surgery to remove the fluid buildup, the Westphal family is grateful that their baby boy can be his cute self for the first time…
“Now there is still a bit of pudginess on that side–the parts of the mass they couldn’t quite get to, but nobody stops us out in public anymore, so it is nowhere near as noticeable,” Kari said. “We were so used to seeing him with it so it was different at first, but I feel relief that we have gone through that chapter of our lives.”