Casey Freitas took her 15-month-old son’s left hand gently in her own and slipped the striped covering off his chubby arm. Mason Fluty’s hand was covered in layers of white bandages, secured with tape wrapped around his small wrist.
She removed the white gauze and tape to reveal five short fingers with twin rows of sutures between the third and fourth digits.
It was 9 a.m., and time for the first bandage change of the day. Since Mason’s left arm slid out of its cast a few days ago, there’s been a constant battle to keep his little fingers clean while they heal.
“When I stub my fingers or toes, it hurts. I can’t imagine what he’s feeling,” said Freitas.
The little boy with a mop of blonde curls and bright blue eyes is on the road to recovery after his most recent surgery.
Mason has Apert syndrome, a genetic disorder in which the 10th chromosome mutates during conception. For Mason, that meant several bones in his cranium, hands and feet were fused together.
Both hands and feet were operated on to separate the middle and fourth digits in Dallas on Sept. 6. The surgery took six hours. Skin grafts were taken from each thigh to cover his newly freed fingers. Mason’s dad Michael Fluty and Freitas spent a week in Texas for the operation and immediate recovery.
Mason’s other limbs are still encased in plaster, but wrestling with his older brothers and determinedly crawling along the floor has caused significant wear on the casts.
“He is just one of the boys with them,” said Freitas. “I’m happy he has older brothers to take care of him and look out for him.”
The casts make it hard for Mason to sleep and hold a bottle, but they are a must to keep healing hands out of a curious toddler’s mouth.
The remaining casts will come off in two weeks, and thrice-daily bandage changes will begin for all four limbs. Until then, sponge baths are the status quo.
Wearing the casts does set Mason back several weeks in his motor skill development. Before surgery, Mason was able to pull himself up onto the couch and toddle around the room. Now he is reliant on mom, his brothers or other caretakers to help him out. A therapist comes to the house once a week for occupational and physical therapy to keep Mason moving and working his muscles.
His procedures aren’t over. Mason will need fluid drained from his brain to relieve pressure, and pins put in his fingers to keep them growing correctly. And he’ll soon need glasses.
Doctors will reevaluate Mason’s progress in December.
Until then, he’s reading stories with his mom, wrestling with his brothers and giving his baby sister kisses.
Several fundraisers have been held this year to help pay for medical bills and travel expenses. Nearly $50,000 has been raised so far, nearing the $75,000 goal.
“We are so grateful for the gracious donations,” said Freitas.
Seeing her son go through yet another surgery was tough, but doctors say Mason is doing well.
Before Mason, Freitas had very little experience with special-needs children, and was nervous about giving him the proper care, she said. But with the help of family and friends, she’s become a pro.
A special highlight of the trip to Dallas was the chance to meet other children with Apert syndrome visiting the same doctor, said Freitas.
“I was excited to see they adapt so well,” she said. “There’s more to these kiddos than the syndrome.”
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.