Herald Sun June 14, 2009 – DAMIEN Campbell

DAMIEN Campbell had head surgery before being adopted as a baby.

But until he had a child of his own, he didn’t know exactly why.

His son, Dylan, 20 months, is recovering from a major operation to repair his skull.

Like his dad, as later became apparent, Dylan was born with a rare condition called sagittal synostosis, the premature fusion of the the skull in babies and toddlers.

In the Campbells’ case, this meant the head had a tendency to grow lengthways, rather than in a rounder shape.

“I knew something wasn’t right with my head, but I haven’t got a history of my medical condition,” Mr Campbell said.

“I was adopted at 18 months and both of my (adoptive) parents have passed away.”

Mr Campbell had corrective surgery on his skull, but was teased at school because some abnormalities remained.

His wife, Helen, said that was part of the motivation for Dylan’s surgery.

“Damien went back to how he was at high school, and how everyone looked at his head, and he didn’t want our son to be picked on,” Mrs Campbell said.

But more important than cosmetics was the potential for neurological damage, if the misshapen skull put pressure on the brain.

“We had to weigh up the benefits of having it done,” Mr Campbell said.

“If we didn’t get it done, his head could have been deformed, but there are obviously big risks with major surgery. You are putting your little boy’s life into someone else’s hands and that’s very stressful.”

Fortunately, those hands belonged to Dr David Chong and a team of specialists at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

The team leads the world in the treatment of this condition, pioneering what has become known as the Melbourne procedure. Over the past decade, about 90 toddlers have been operated on.

Dylan had surgery in September, shortly before his first birthday, and has made a surprisingly quick recovery.

“Our aim is for them to look like normal kids, and be normal kids,” Dr Chong said.

The operation involves pulling back the scalp and reshaping the skull.