Child in a Million - Wednesday March 13

child in a million (4/6) 20.00–21.00

This series of observational documentaries explores a variety of complex medical conditions and treatments at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. Cameras follow 13 children and their families as doctors diagnose and treat their conditions using cutting-edge techniques. In this programme, we meet Ellie and Kody.

Twelve-year-old Ellie was born with a rare genetic condition which caused abnormal restraints on the growth in her skull. Great Ormond Street sees about eight cases of Crouzon Syndrome a year, and today Ellie needs a complex operation to relieve the pressure on her brain caused by underdeveloped bone. “I can’t close my eyes properly because my eye socket is too small for my eye,” she explains. “You can’t sleep well at night, you can’t breathe properly, and bright lights really affect me.”

Having first undergone surgery in infancy, most Crouzon sufferers will wait until their late teens to go through the painful next step. Ellie’s condition, however, is serious – the pressure on her brain is growing, and recently caused her eye to pop out of its socket. Dad Robert, who shares her condition, is anxious about his daughter. “It is a big op,” he says. “It’s frightening.”

The procedure involves cutting through the front part of Ellie’s skull, and mobilising the bones around her forehead, eye sockets and cheekbones. An external brace is then fitted around her head with screws that will slowly draw the bones outwards, releasing the pressure on her brain and creating a more regular facial structure. This surgery is not without risks, and will necessitate even more surgery in the future, but Ellie is in the safe hands of pioneering cranio-facial consultant David Dunaway. For added reassurance, she wears her lucky gold hat into hospital.

After eight tense hours, Ellie’s parents are given the good news – the surgery went well. She now faces a long and difficult recovery, after which she will feel –and look –very different. Her mum Louise thinks her daughter looks amazing. “I was very concerned that after the operation, Ellie would no longer be Ellie,” she says, “but I’m happy to say that she is very much Ellie again!”

Having gone through weeks of pain, Ellie is apprehensive about seeing herself for the first time, but is almost overwhelmed when she holds up a mirror to her bruised but smiling face. “I didn’t know it was going to be this nice!” she gasps.

More than a thousand children are referred to Great Ormond Street’s Ear, Nose and Throat department every year, and one-year-old Kody is one of the youngest. Born with a rare lymphatic disorder causing massive swelling in his neck, mouth and face, he suffers numerous difficulties in breathing, eating and talking, and needs several operations. In this programme, we follow his progress as consultant Doctor Hartley reduces his swollen, protruding tongue.

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