Posted By: Alyson Landry on August 2, 2011

Labels: Guatemala , Volunteers

Once Antony Chavez saw my camera he was hooked. And when I saw Antony’s calm, curious eyes, I was hooked. 

His 14-month-old eyes barely wavered looking at me through the camera, even as he lay in his father’s arms with sweat-drenched hair while HOPE volunteer Pediatric Nurse Faye Pyles conducted an examination. His curly, dark hair was matted to his head and around his frontal-pointed skull, raising his eyebrows slightly. 

Antony’s mom brought the toddler to the Los Angeles medical site in Guatemala to see the Continuing Promise 2011 medical staff.  The boy suffers from craniosynostosis - also known as triangle head - a condition that occurs when the sutures in the head, which allow your brain and skull to grow, fuse. 

“If one of the sutures fuse, it can prevent brain growth, causing the brain to grow in other directions,” says Pyles. “In some cases, mental retardation can occur if the brain cannot grow. But Antony seems to show all the signs for normal brain function for his age.”  

So far, so good. 

While the staff on the USNS Comfort are not equipped to perform the surgery needed to correct Antony’s condition, they are able to perform a CT scan that will diagnose the exact problem and give Antony’s mother perhaps some peace of mind, and a copy of the scan she might otherwise not be able to afford, to take to a surgeon in Guatemala.  

 Antony showed up the next morning for the CT scan, livelier in his mother’s arms without the heat bogging him down. His silent, calm eyes immediately found the camera. 

His mother, Marlin Orellana, says she found out about the medical site through a ministry of health TV commercial as well as an ad in the newspaper. Orellana is a stay at home mom with another 3-year-old daughter, and her husband is a construction worker. 

“This was a great experience, and I am so glad the ship is here to take care of people,” Orellana says through a translator. 

She timidly walked into the CT scanning area carrying Antony who was fast asleep from a recent breastfeeding. The technician gently placed him on the table and aligned his head as his mother covered her mouth and gazed at her little boy. 

“From the scans, Antony only has one fused suture,” assures Steve Foster, a Naval pediatric radiologist. “This means his brain will continue to grow and have normal function, but if he does not get the surgery his head will be an abnormal shape… otherwise, he should be fine.”





More photos of Antony's day on the USNS Comfort.

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