Triplets with Crouzon undergo surgical transformation

Triplets with Crouzon undergo surgical transformation
Jason and Bobbie Jo Theriault

Anne Marie Tiernon/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A set of Indiana triplets are undergoing a surgical transformation from a rare genetic condition.

Two of the eight-month old Theriault triplets prepared for surgery on the same day as their sister, Kaydence, was continuing her transformation with a new look. Her follow-up visit included a cumbersome fitting for a helmet. When finished, the hard-shaped pink shells protect and shape her head.

"I think the only way this comes out is keeping pressure everywhere else as she grows," said Dr. Ronald Young, a pediatric neurosurgeon at St. Vincent.

Kaydence has Crouzon Syndrome, which causes the skull to close early. But since the brain keeps growing, it pushes against the skull, causing varying degrees of disfigurement - from head shape to bulging eyes.

She was born with a clover leaf-shaped head that international experts called one of the most severe cases of Crouzon Syndrome in medical history. But in under two months, you can see improvement.

"This is where we wanted to be, yeah," Dr. Young said. "Overall, gone from more of a clover leaf shape to much more round. Eventually, to where we want to get is more of an oval head shape."

Dr. Young and his team are heading up treatment for Kaydence. With her case, the most complex, complete, her triplet siblings, Kaylin and Taylor, face surgery next.

"People really don't know much about this," Dr. Young said. "And [they] really didn't know these types of problems existed."

The triplets' mother, Bobbie Jo, has Crouzon Syndrome and her chance of passing it down to her children was 50-50. Seven-year-old Jayden also has it.

"I just like all the babies, because all of them are cute," Jayden said.

The triplets, however, were a big surprise and doubling the family from three to six hasn't been easy.

"We are doing the best we can as a family to get by," Bobbie Jo said.

She still works full-time, processing medical claims. Father Jason is a full-time printer on the east side, who remembers why he picked the profession.

"Actually, it was a book that said even during the Great Depression, printers had jobs and I figured if they are in the worst time in the country, if they still had jobs, that would be the right trade to pick," he said.

To minimize the cost of days off, both babies will have their surgery on the same day.

"Done this type of case back-to-back, but never on members of the same family," Dr. Young said.

Brother Taylor gets the morning slot, where surgeons cut on his skull in a zig-zag pattern, so in the future, his hair will better cover the scar.

"For both of them, very similar operations. We are going to take off the frontal bone and reshape it and then it is bringing the orbits forward," said Dr. Young. "It is a big deal, because you're having a small baby having their skull taken apart, reshaped, put back in."

The family waited with baby number three, Kaylin, who went into surgery in the afternoon.

"You are not worrying about one, you are worrying about two," said Bobbie Jo.

The first case takes nearly three hours, but Dr. Young says the team is "really happy with the way it turned out." Once Taylor is moved to his room, the family is relieved.

"I love him," Bobbie Jo said. "I think he looks a lot better. One little load off my chest."

Then, nurses carried Kaylin to the operating room.

"It's heart wrenching when you have to watch them go away and you know what they are going to have to go through," said father Jason.

"I think hers should be really, pretty straightforward," Dr. Young said. "She is the least deformed of the three."

Doctors say, in most of the cases, the issue is just cosmetic. That's something Jason got over long ago.

"A pretty face doesn't mean a pretty heart," he said.

Married nine years, the couple has been stung by criticism of their situation.

"It certainly ain't going to make me crumble, because I am not going to give up on the kids," Jason said. "You can't. They are your kids."

After the surgery, Kaylin does well in recovery. By evening, she was in a room adjoining her brother.

"I think it was a good day," Dr. Young said.

The siblings are swollen, sweet and unable to grasp what may lie ahead.

"My hope is people don't stare. That is my goal, is that these kids can go out in public and people aren't staring at them and they can feel like they can lead a normal life," Bobbie Jo said.

If you would like to help the family, there is a Theriault Triplet Fund at any Fifth Third Bank branch.