Every parent’s worst nightmare is hearing that something is wrong with their child.
It’s especially troubling when the child is very young and unable to understand what is happening to them.
For Darci and Trent Dawson and their newborn daughter Madeira, this nightmare came in the form of craniosynostosis, a condition in which some or all of the bones in the skull have prematurely fused, causing the still-growing brain to deform the child’s head.
“The only way they can correct that is with surgery,” said Darci Dawson.
Nine-month-old Madeira will get that surgery next month at Seattle Children’s Hospital. While it is a difficult procedure, it’s common to have a very high success rate. All signs point to Madeira making a full recovery and going on to live a completely normal life.
Through the whole ordeal, Dawson has drawn strength from the love and support of others. She feels fortunate that much is known about craniosynostosis and that Seattle Children’s Hospital is among the country’s leaders in dealing with the condition. Having benefited from the support structure that was able to help her daughter, Dawson wanted to give something back and help others in need.
“Just knowing what it’s like to have someone tell you there’s something wrong with your baby, and knowing that there’s other moms out there getting even worse news than I got, I just wanted to do something for somebody else,” Dawson said.
Spending a great deal of time at Seattle Children’s Hospital dealing with her daughter’s condition, Dawson had come to know many families whose lives had been changed by cancer and empathized with their situation.
“I feel bad for any other mom that has to hear that anything is wrong with their child,” Dawson said.
Dawson quickly decided to put her energy into helping fight children’s cancer. Through St. Baldrick’s Foundation, she found the perfect outlet.
St Baldrick’s sponsors head-shaving events to raise money to fight children’s cancer, and for Dawson, this immediately felt like the thing to do. Since her daughter would have her head shaved in preparation for her surgery, Dawson saw shaving her head as both a fundraising opportunity and a show of solidarity. If Madeira would have to go bald, mommy would, too.
Dawson set up a donation page at St. Baldrick’s Web site and e-mailed everyone in her address book asking for contributions. She set a goal of raising $1,000, but quickly surpassed that figure.
In just a few short weeks, Dawson’s gesture has brought in over $5,000 in donations. One family whose grandson had the same surgery Madeira is about to undergo pledged $1,000; another gave $500.
The big day came onTuesday, March 11. Nervous and uncertain, but buoyed by purpose, Dawson had her head shaved at Fado Irish Pub in downtown Seattle. Of the 19 shavees there, Dawson was the only female, which made for some odd looks and interesting comments, but also inspired the assembled crowd to pitch in some money on the spot.
Dawson also donated the bulk of her long hair to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children with cancer.
Dawson was a bit surprised that the gesture touched such a nerve with people and brought in so much money. Despite the occasional odd look, she feels the statement has been well worth it.
“I needed to do something positive with my very anxious energy,” Dawson said. “It’s amazing how fast you can do something good.”
• To learn more about St. Baldrick’s or to donate to Dawson’s cause, visit www.stbaldricks.org and click on the “Find A Participant” to search for Darci Dawson.