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June 6, 2002

Family struggles for daughter's right to look normal

Thursday surgeons will operate to make Lana Dye's beauty the first thing people notice

By Parish Howard

When she was born, she was beautiful.

Lana Dye had all of her fingers and toes and no extras. She was healthy and she was loved. Both family and strangers, nurses at the hospital, leaned over her tiny body, her baby face and smiled.

A couple of days later she was still beautiful, even after the blood vessels began to swell.

"We didn't notice anything when she was born," said her mother Sharon Dye of Wrens. "Her lip was perfect, but when she was a couple of days old, we noticed a place on her lip where it appeared as if she had sucked a small blood blister."

Over the next few weeks the blister grew into a bright red strawberry on her bottom lip.

It was at Lana's two-week check up that her parents found out that the blister was something else.

A year later she was still beautiful, but it was the comments from strangers, from oblivious and even well-meaning friends and acquaintances that made her mother uncomfortable about taking her out in public.

"It's not that we didn't love her, but it just got so hard to go out. I mean, it was hard enough dealing with it inside," Dye said touching her own chest over the place where so many injuries never show. "It's the comments they made, what they still say, just the other day at the ball game someone said something. The children don't know any better. They go up to her and want to touch it. It's so noticeable. But, you'd think adults would know how to make it, I don't know, more comfortable for you. A lot of them don't."

Dye said people still ask her "Did she fall down?," "What happened to her lip?" and "What's wrong with her?"

It was bad enough when Lana was still a toddler, when the things people said were just noises and almost every touch was welcomed attention.

"She's old enough now that she knows what they are saying," Dye said. "She knows what her lip is."

Now when people ask how she got her booboo, when other children come over and pinch or touch it, she reacts.

"She sucks it into her mouth and holds it there," Dye said. "She covers it with her hand or she plays with it. It's big and she can feel it. It hangs down."

For nearly two years now the Dyes have been waiting, following a specialist's recommendation that they wait until Lana is about 2-and-a-half-years-old to have surgery.

On Thursday, June 6, Lana, beautiful in a way that all happy, loved children are beautiful, will be laid down on a North Carolina operating table so surgeons can remove the blemish that has been stealing people's attention away from the beauty that has always been there.

The cherry-red swelling is actually a benign blood-filled tumor called a hemangioma. According to Dr. Milton Waner, an internationally recognized authority on these tumors and other vascular malformations, hemangiomas are the most common benign tumor in infants. Fourteen in 100 children are born with a vascular birthmark. Most of these are hemangiomas.

At that two-week check up, when Lana's doctor first diagnosed the little blood blister, the Dyes had never heard of such a disorder.

That night Dye began her own online research, reading everything she could find.

She learned that non-cancerous tumors come in all shapes and sizes and range from hardly noticeable to very disfiguring. She learned that 83 percent of children with these tumors have them on their face and neck. She learned that they predominantly occur in white females.

"There's no way to know what causes them," Dye said. "I've tried to figure it out. I was very careful when I was pregnant, but still, I've asked myself over and over 'What did I take?' They don't know if it is genetic or what. Some specialists think it may have something to do with the placenta."

Of all the information she found, the most immediate help was in a support group for parents of children with these tumors.

She read about a mother whose daughter had a hemangioma removed from her nose. Dye wrote her an email and a few days later the woman called.

She told Dye that she had seen these tumors on children's lips that grew to the size of a large plum. She told Dye about her own daughter's experience, gave her hope and told her that these tumors can be treated.

She put the family in touch with two surgeons, specialists in the field of hemangioma treatment.

Like the physician who first diagnosed Lana's tumor, Dye said a lot of "older" doctors recommend parents not opt for surgery as some hemangiomas go away on their own before the children reach their fourth birthdays.

"From what we've read and the people we've talked to, they are less likely to go away when they are on the lip," Dye said. "When we realized that it was deforming her lip line, we knew we were going to have to do something."

At the specialists' recommendation, the Dyes began a steroid treatment when Lana was only four months old and scheduled a pulse dye laser treatment to toughen the skin to prevent rupture.

"We started on small doses of the steroid Prednisone and began to increase," Dye said. "The side effects from taking the oral steroids were terrible. She was very irritable and had tremendous swelling of the face."

The laser made her lip and the tumor that had never before been a physical discomfort very sore.

"I had to give up breast feeding because her ability to nurse was almost impossible on that side of her lip... My mother and father came and stayed with me for two weeks," Dye said. "I think we were awake most of that time. She couldn't sleep. She was miserable. Eventually we got through it."

The drugs seemed to stop to the tumor's growth when Lana was about 18-months-old.

Now, at 2-and-a-half years, she is old enough for corrective surgery. The expense and the possible minor scarring are not an issue.

"A little scar will be better than the emotional scarring inside that she would carry with her from growing up with it," Dye said.

She has also found support in the form of a foundation that has been created to help the families of hemangioma patients.

Dye said that the foundation is going to help her fight her insurance company who doesn't want to pay for the operation because it is cosmetic.

"It's not just cosmetic," Dye said. "Nobody wants their child to grow up with something like this on her face.

"We wanted to hear the normal things that people say when they see your baby, 'how cute,' or 'she looks like her mom,'" Dye said. "We thought she was beautiful. I have albums full of photos."

With the help of their family, friends and church the Dyes themselves were able to get beyond the bright red swelling.

"It was the people who didn't know Lana, they couldn't get past it," Dye said. "I know they probably didn't know what to say to me."

Some of them, uncomfortable themselves, didn't say anything.

"They might have thought it was better, but in my case, it wasn't," Dye said. "I really believe God gave it to us for a reason. It has made us pull together as a family. Maybe, it was so I would educate people about it."

Over the last couple of years, while dealing with her own daughter's tumor, Dye has met several parents of children with similar blemishes.

"I met one lady whose child had five hemangiomas," she said. "I went up to her and told her that I understood what they were. You should have seen the look on her face. It was like finally someone knows."

Dye knew that feeling. She knew the feeling of hope; it's why she shares her story.

Wrens man found dead

Cause of Willie Lee Turner Jr.'s death is under investigation

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A 38 year-old Wrens man was found dead Monday night near his residence at Marsh Trailer Park on US Highway 1 north of the city. State crime lab officials said Tuesday afternoon that the death resulted from a brain hemorrhage due to either natural causes or excessive drug use.

The body of William Lee Turner, Jr. was discovered lying on a dirt drive inside the trailer park property by residents, according to a spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. No obvious evidence of foul play was present at the scene.

Investigators were notified at approximately 8:33 p.m. Monday. Turner was found lying on his back on a dirt drive bordered largely by weeds and tall grass. The only marks on the body were two small abrasions on his face that appeared to be recent.

Crime lab officials said late Tuesday that toxicology tests to determine if the death was drug related will require approximately six weeks to complete.

Turner lived alone at the trailer park. He was originally from Augusta, where much of his family still resides.

The investigation was conducted by Sheriff's investigators and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Investigators said incidents such as this are treated initially as homicides when there is no witness to a death.

Child dies in Gibson trailer fire

Cause of fire could not be determined, state fire marshal said

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A May 28 fire at a residence on Ashley Court in Gibson claimed the life of 7-year-old Jonathan Brown. State Fire Marshal Charles Hadden said the investigation could not determine the cause of the fire that broke out shortly before 11 p.m. inside the singlewide manufactured home.

Hadden said the fire apparently began in the child's bedroom. The bedroom and an adjacent bathroom sustained the most damage, with the remainder of the home sustaining smoke damage and lesser amounts of fire damage.

Hadden said the investigation revealed that the child's father, Milton Brown, was the only other occupant present when the fire started. He told investigators he was asleep in his bedroom when he was awakened by the smoke detector.

As he entered the hallway and moved toward the child's room, he could hear the boy calling, "Help me, Dad." Brown said he was unable to enter the room due to the intense heat and smoke. He grabbed twice for his son, grabbing hold of a hand on one attempt and a foot on the other attempt. Both times, the son pulled away, he said. After the failed attempts, Brown went to the home of a neighbor for help.

The father was transported to Doctors Hospital in Augusta where he was treated for smoke inhalation and released the following day.

Hadden said the fire was determined to have begun in the child's bedroom but the cause could not be determined even after sifting through the debris.

Responding to the call at 10:41 p.m. were the Glascock County Fire Department, Gibson Fire Department, First Responders, Glascock County Sheriff and Gibson Police. Hadden and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents conducted the investigation.

State Patrol team analyzes wreck that killed Arrington

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A review by a Georgia State Patrol (GSP) accident reconstruction team of the May 3 traffic accident that claimed the life of Jefferson County High School student Matthew Arrington determined that the driver of the other vehicle, Louisville resident Laura Wheeler, was not at fault.

A May 13 investigation of the crash dynamics involved in the accident by GSP's Reidsville-based Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team (SCRT) determined that Wheeler was traveling south on US Hwy 1 at 39-45 miles per hour when the accident occurred, according to a May 28 statement by GSP public information officer Gordy Wright in Atlanta.

"The outcome of the investigation determined that there was no action on the part of Ms. Wheeler that resulted in criminal wrongdoing," said Wright.

The accident occurred at the intersection of US Highway One and Warrior Trail shortly after school dismissed at approximately 3:25 p.m., according to police reports. Arrington either overlooked or misjudged the distance between his 1993 Plymouth Laser and the southbound 1998 Ford Expedition driven by Wheeler. Arrington was critically injured when his vehicle was struck in the area of the driver's door as he pulled out from the stop sign in order to enter the northbound land of the highway.

SCRT investigators examined a number of factors involving the crash dynamics to make their determination. These include the location and extent of damage to the vehicles, the length of skid marks made after impact, the type and weight of the vehicles, weather conditions, crash reports and other documentation generated at the time of the accident.

The speed of Wheeler's vehicle was determined by the skid marks evident after the collision. Investigators found that Wheeler's SUV traveled 96 feet after impact. Arrington's car traveled 59 feet. The evidence gathered by investigators put Wheeler's speed at 39-45 miles per hour, said Wright. There were no skid marks prior to the collision.

Relay for Life kicks off Friday

Glascock County continues tradition of pouring the community into efforts fighting cancer

By Luke Moses

Raising money to combat cancer is something Glascock County does best and it doesn't look like things will be any different this year with the Relay for Life kicking off Friday with seven teams and a large variety of entertainment and scheduled events targeted at helping in the effort to fight cancer.

According to Event Coordinator Gwen Couch, Glascock County raised over $50,000 last year alone for the American Cancer Society.

She hopes the Relay for Life in Glascock County will surpass last year's amount.

The Headhunters raised the most money last year, over $20,000 and the team is already on a roll collecting money again.

With events ranging from womanless weddings and chitterling dinners to raffles and a street dance with Kenny Hill, the Relay for Life has already raised a great deal of money to fight cancer.

Opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m. Friday with the pledge of allegiance, national anthem, invocation and introduction of committee members and American Cancer Society staff.

A survivor "victory lap" will be at 6:30 p.m.

Teams will take the track at 6:45 and then, as Gwyn Couch says, "Let the relay begin."

There will be live entertainment throughout the night and a "Miss" Relay Pageant.

At 11 p.m., there will be a talent show, followed by a scavenger hunt at 12:30 a.m.

Walks around the track will continue throughout the night with a pajama walk at 3 a.m.

Team breakfasts will be at 6 a.m. followed by the closing ceremony at 7 a.m.

The Glascock County Relay for Life has been nationally recognized for the amount of money per capita that Glascock County has raised for the American Cancer Society.

Couch said that the Relay for Life brings people together in the community and that the celebration of cancer survivors is more important than the money that is raised.

"I tell all the team captains, 'For Glascock County, the Relay for Life is not about money. It's about celebrating our survivors,'" said Couch.

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Last modified: June 5, 2002