HEALTH

Evan Gill set for surgery to remove rare birthmark

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For Ashley and Jeff Gill, this past March brought the biggest of milestones - the birth of Evan, their happy and healthy baby boy.

Young Evan will undergo surgery to remove the birthmark on his forehead. Photo: Gill family

One thing was a bit different about Evan, though. The small child had an unusually large birthmark on his forehead. However, shortly after his birth, doctors told the Gills that the birthmark was more than just that. It was a congenital nevus, a mark that is only found in about 1 percent of infants.

The ultimate problem, doctors said, was that it could become cancerous.

"We just thought he's going to be different," Ashley said. "They mentioned that there is a risk for skin cancer, as minimal as it may be, but they did recommend removal of it for psychological purposes."

That's why Evan will undergo surgery to remove the mole on Monday. However, removing the birthmark would leave a hole in his skin, so his parents turned to Dr. Bruce Bauer, a Chicago-based pediatric plastic surgeon.

Upon consultation, Dr. Bauer implanted a tissue expander into the healthy side of Evan's forehead in an effort to grow new skin to fill in the other side after the procedure.

"The only way to get enough normal skin to replace it is to expand it," Dr. Bauer said via Skype. "(We) put a balloon called a tissue expander under the skin."

That's where Ashley and Jeff step in for a unique, hands-on approach to getting Evan prepared for his surgery. Once a week for nearly three months, they inject saline into the part which travels over the bubble and into the tissue expander. The result is the growth of new skin.

Evan's parents decided to take action while he is younger and less mobile, despite assurances from Dr. Bauer that it would be nearly impossible to damage the bubble. On Monday, the birthmark and the tissue expander will be removed, and the new skin will be pulled across Evan's forehead.

"We can move the normal forehead skin across and place the scars along the brow and hairline," Dr. Bauer said."

The Gills say they've received a tremendous amount of support from a Facebook group, and even though the bubble may look strange to others, Evan has no idea what's happening.

"He looks at himself in the mirror funny sometimes, but laughs about it," Ashley said.

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