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Community showed support for Owen Stewart benefit at the Chalet on Saturday

Owen Stewart was diagnosed with a rare skull condition when he was 15 months old. He survived many tribulations in his life including being pre-mature and then going through four reconstructive surgeries. He is now four years old and doing well. He took a break from playing during his benefit at the White Mountain Chalet on Saturday to have his picture taken with his family. (From left to right sister Amber; Owen being held by his mother Lisa Stewart; sister Kylie; father John Stewart; and sister Rebecca) Photo by Jody Houle. (click for larger version)
February 06, 2013
BERLIN Owen Stewart was playing and having a blast on Saturday at the White Mountain Chalet. Over 150 people came to support him after all the struggles he and his family went through recently. He is quite a survivor, and furthermore, a pure miracle.

Due to a rare condition called craniosynostosis, he has been through four reconstructive surgeries in efforts by CHaD (Children's Hospital at Dartmouth) to correct the forming of his skull. His family is extremely grateful to CHaD and the neural and plastic surgeons at Dartmouth/Hitchcock for all the great work the staff did in correcting him and for their kind hospitality. "They were great," said Owen's mom, Lisa Stewart. "After his last surgery, he asked when he could go back."

Owen was born pre-mature six weeks early and almost died at birth. Then at 15 months, he was diagnosed with his condition and received his first surgery. In the early development of an infant's life, the skull is in sections unattached and each piece will normally fuse together after the pieces meet. In Owen's case, the pieces fused before they met making his head the size of an early teenager. The first surgery was expected to be the only one. The top and side of his skull were removed and placed back in an effort to correct its formation. He had multiple blood transfusions. His eyes were swelled shut and his head swelled. Mom and Dad, John and Lisa Stewart, waited and slept in the same room overnight. They went home and hoped for the best. At three years old, the doctors decided that Owen needed another surgery.

This time, the back of his skull was removed and put back together. A stitch had come undone leaking a little on the first night, and this prevented major swelling. He had to go through more blood transfusions again. There was a big improvement in his head formation this time, but it wasn't over.

In August during his third surgery, the top and side of his skull were removed and a device called a cranial distractor was used in the process. Two metal plates attached to two titanium rods were attached to his skull. Every day for two weeks a special ratcheting screwdriver was used by the family to open his head 1/3 mm at a time for a total of 1mm per day. Some unexpected complications suddenly occurred his blood pressure raised significantly and he was put on a breathing respirator for two days. He received an MRI/CT scan in the meantime, but nothing was revealing the cause. It took a while to bring him back to the right blood pressure readings. He was very sick and could not hold down food, and wasn't very responsive or active. This worried the family and the doctors.

One morning, Owen woke up and was back to himself. He was talking, laughing, eating, and playing. Literally overnight, it seemed a miracle had occurred. The following week, the family got another scare -- while his sister was holding his hand, he had fallen and broke one of his rods at his dad's softball game. Fortunately, the doctors at Dartmouth easily replaced it.

During his fourth surgery, the plates and rods were removed and some areas were fixed. He had lost a lot of blood again but he was well enough to go home the next day, although he was sick for a few hours. The doctors are fairly confident that he should not need any more surgeries. By the time he is an early teen, his head is expected to be the appropriate size proportionate to his body.

Owen is now four years old and he is doing very well.

At the benefit on Saturday many community supporters, friends and family members celebrated the miracle of Owen. Crafts were made and sold by many businesses, food was served, a 50/50 raffle was held, and Rock Bottom, a local rock band, donated their services and performed for a night of dancing. Owen could be seen being very playful and full of smiles.

The family would like to thank everyone in the community who has donated and been supportive including Nancy Younie who didn't know the family, but volunteered to help put on the benefit. Also, the family thanks all who donated during the CHaD marathon held for Owen in October, and everyone who sent checks. "There are too many to name," said Mrs. Stewart.

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