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June 18, 2010 10:05 PM

Implants Used To Help Baby Boy's Condition

Dell Rapids, SD

Breast implants are most commonly used to enhance a woman's appearance. But they are also versatile. They're being used to improve burns, grow hair and get rid of uncommon medical conditions. It's a way to help a Dell Rapids baby boy correct a condition he was born with.

Ten-month-old Sully Nagel is just like any happy, growing baby. The only thing that sets him apart is an uncommon condition that has an even more unusual treatment.

"When he was born, it was immediately noticeable that he wasn't your run of the mill newborn.  Something was definitely special about him," mom Beth Nagel said.

Sully was born with Giant Congenital Nevus. The large birthmark covers his back and most of his neck.

"It was overwhelming at first. The hardest part was not knowing anything, not having any idea what we were dealing with," Beth said.

Just to give you an idea how rare this condition is, we headed to the Sioux Falls Arena. The arena seats 8,000 people. You'd have to fill all of these seats 62.5 times for one person to have the condition.

In Sully's case, the birthmark isn't causing him any harm but he could develop skin cancer later in life. Which is why his parents decided to look for a doctor who can remove it.

"Found Dr. Bauer in Chicago who is an expert at removing nevus moles especially giant ones like Sully's by using tissue expanders," Beth said. 

Three months ago, doctors placed tissue expanders or implants under Sully's skin on both of his sides. For the past 12 weeks, his parents slowly made them bigger.

"Weekly, we do fills at home and add saline to the tissue expanders through ports in his back and gradually, they get bigger and bigger, which causes the skin to grow and stretch at the same time," Beth said.

Doctors will soon take the implants out, remove a portion of the birthmark and use the newly stretched skin to cover the area.

"Sully has done amazingly well with this whole process probably better than we have taking care of him," Beth said.

This is just one of three treatment stages for Sully. He's expected to get a total of six surgeries over a matter of three years. But it's something that needs to be done.

"It grows within proportion so you'd rather do it sooner rather than later because it would be a bigger challenge and more surgeries," dad Carl Nagel said.

And the family has another challenge to worry about: how to pay for it all. Taking time away from work and driving to and from Chicago isn't cheap.

"It's expensive because it's on going and while we have insurance, it doesn't always help quite enough so that's where the cookbook came in," Beth said.

Beth and Carl collected recipes from family and friends and put a cookbook together. It's a way for them to raise money to help pay for travel costs. But to see their son acting like a normal kid makes the trips worth while.

"We were so afraid that coming home with him, he wouldn't want to do things like crawl and thought he might develop slower but he's standing and crawling, trying to climb up on things. He adventurous, he just like any other 10 month old," Carl said.

And one who's inspiring them everyday.

"No matter what, God was going to get us through this and everything was going to be taken care of and he hasn't let us down yet and I know he won't," Beth said.

"He's doing great, and we couldn't be more prouder of him," Carl said.

To order a cookbook or read more about the family, visit the Nagels' blog.

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