By Josh Saunders
A mum has shared an amazing one year transformation of her daughter who had a ‘massive mushroom birthmark’ removed.
Ashley Savalle, 33, from Detroit in Michigan, USA, spotted the little pink thumbprint on her daughter’s forehead at one-week-old and in less than a year it quadrupled in size.
Little Antonina had a hemangioma, called a strawberry birthmark, which is a reddish-purple lump caused by a collection of blood vessels gathering under the skin.
Doctors dismissed the family’s concerns about its size and the non-cancerous growth continued to swell to the size of a mushroom.
The bulging birthmark would swell even further, when Antonina became upset or angry.
Her mum feared it was going to ulcerate and become infected, worsened by it regularly bleeding and scabbing over.
The family sought help from the Vascular Birthmark Foundation (VBF), who found a surgeon to remove her daughter’s hemangioma.
Now, one year on, mum Ashley has posted before and after pictures of Antonina, now 20-months-old, to raise awareness and show the drastic difference surgery has made to her life.
Ashley, a hairdresser, said: “Initially it was flesh pink colour and the size of a thumbprint, but then it grew and then it was like a muffin or a mushroom on her head.
“Whenever she would cry it would swell even more, I was scared because of it being located on her forehead that it would continue to bleed and could get infected.
“We needed to have her birthmark removed because it was growing at such a rapid rate.
“Big open sores used to form on the surface of it that would bleed and then scab over, we were told to keep it clean and dry at home but it was pretty worrying.”
Ashley covered the swelling in fearing that her daughter would be picked on or stared at for her facial difference.
She added: “I used to cover it with a hat, which my daughter was always trying to rip off and left me worrying that she would start gripping at her birthmark too.
“I was more insecure because I didn’t want people to look at her differently to any other child, I would always cover her birthmark with a hat or a bow.
“Family members would always ask what it was, why it was so big, if she knew it was there and other questions, so I was constantly explaining it to them.
“I also heard a lot of stories from other parents who had been accused of hitting their child because the hemangioma looked like a bruise.
“Children and even parents can be cruel, I never wanted her to have to deal with any bullying because of her birthmark.”
Antonina was prescribed topical steroid creams to reduce the swelling but it didn’t work and after being advised to start blood thinners, her parents started their own research.
Ashley posted a picture of her daughter’s birthmark in the Facebook group ‘Hemangioma Parents’ and found help from Dr Linda Rozell-Shannon, President of the Vascular Birthmark Foundation.
She added: “We spoke to several surgeons and doctors but none of them were able to help her, all they wanted to do was prescribe blood pressure medication to reduce the swelling.
“That’s when I started searching on my own for information, we were told it would go away, but it was only getting bigger and the ulcerations made me very nervous.
“I knew that as she got older it would impact her daily life significantly, I didn’t want her growing up and struggling to come to terms with me not taking steps to make her life easier.
“After contacting the Vascular Birthmark Foundation, we found out that due to the amount of mushrooming her hemangioma had gone through it would never go away naturally.
“They gave us a list a lot of reasons for surgery ranging from potential infections to the risk of it burning in the sun that would cause it to swell massively.
“I feared that if we waited until she was 10-years-old for surgery, the skin would be more damaged, loose and removing it could prevent her hair from growing back.”
Last year surgeons in Miami removed her hemangioma, slicing off the lump and stitching the skin either back together.
Ashley says she doesn’t regret the surgery as it’s allowed her daughter to lead a normal life and the scarring is minimal.
Ashley added: “I worried she would be prevented doing a lot of normal things, from wearing a bike helmet, struggling to play sports and more.
“But now, it’s completely gone, you can only see the little mark if you know where to look but other than that there have been no problems or complications at all.
“Now I’m hoping to continue raising awareness by sharing her pictures and educate others about hemangiomas as well as the available treatments for it too.
“It was such a huge part of her life, it was a massive concern and brought a lot of stress, but thankfully now it’s gone, it was definitely the best decision we could have made.”
The Vascular Birthmark Foundation (VBF) helped the Savalle family seek treatment, they also provide information and advice.
Dr Linda Rozell Shannon, founder of the VBF, said: “Vascular birthmarks are one of the most common defects in infants, one in ten children have them yet they are so misunderstood.
“Most of them will resolve on their own but the 10%, up to 40,000 children a year, need surgery or other treatment.
“The whole goal is to support the families struggling all over the world, to help them get accurate diagnoses and treatment.”
There are 400,000 children born in the USA with a vascular birthmark, each views their birthmark differently.
Dr. Rozell Shannon added: “There are those who love their birthmark and think it makes them unique, I changed our mission status around that to accept people choosing to live with their birthmarks and embrace them.
“I explain to every single person I love their birthmark but that it’s their choice whether they decide to treat it or not.
“This can have medical consequence – they do thicken and can bleed when they develop cobbling.
“I try to give them an accurate of what can happen and will happen with treatment.”