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Bentley Yoder was born with encephalocele, a neural tube defect that allows the brain to protrude from the head in what looks like a sac. This is caused by a failure of the neural tube to close completely during fetal development. Needless to say, his parents, Sierra and Dustin, were horrified:
Bentley was born and handed to his parents. After about 10 minutes, the couple tried to bottle-feed him. It worked. Three days later, they left the hospital with him. “I was scared to sleep,” his mom said, thinking he would die at any moment. But a week later, when Bentley was still alive — and thriving — the Yoders decided to seek out another opinion.
They found themselves at Boston Children’s Hospital, where they met with Dr. John Meara, the plastic-surgeon-in-chief, and Dr. Mark Proctor, the interim neurosurgeon-in-chief who were familiar with the procedures needed to help give Bentley a chance at life. They used 3D imaging and printed models of Bentley’s skull and the protrusion, which allowed them to simulate surgeries and increase the chance of success:
“We went into this procedure feeling like we had done the procedure many times and indeed we had. When I look back, say 10 or 20 years ago, many times you’d be seeing the actual anatomy for the first time in the operating room. “In a case like Bentley’s we’ve actually done the procedure on these models before we go into the operating room. For Bentley’s case this was a 4 or 5 hour operating procedure as opposed to 20 years ago this might have been a 14 or 18 hour procedure.”
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Today, Bentley is thriving and while it’s too soon to say if there will be lasting effects of the encephalocele, our thoughts and prayers are with this child who has begun his life bearing such a unique cross.