COLUMBIA, S.C. — October is Spina Bifida awareness month, a time to recognize those living with the condition, while also raising awareness and support those around us affected by Spina Bifida.
Spina bifida is a disorder involving incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord and their protective coverings.
According to DHEC, there were 90 cases of spina bifida from 2015-2019. The department says, of these 90 cases, there were 78 live births, 13 of these children died in the first year of life. The infant mortality rate for spina bifida was 167-in-1000.
Melanie Wells was in her second trimester when her unborn child, Cash, was diagnosed with the most severe type of spina bifida. After Cash was born he was taken to the NICU where doctors performed back closure surgery on him at just one day old.
At eight weeks old, he developed hydrocephalus, a condition that leads to fluid on the brain causing the head to enlarge. Dr. Stanley Skarli, pediatric neurosurgeon at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital then had to drain the excess fluid from Cash’s brain.
Cash's parents say they were scared at the time because they didn't know what was coming.
"I remember when I delivered him," says Melanie Wells. "(The doctor) showed him to me and I remember looking at Baron and saying, 'it's going to be OK.' "
Cash is now reportedly a "happy, walking, talking two-year-old."
This awareness month, Dr. Skarli wants the community to know that spina bifida doesn't make any child any different, but says couples considering getting pregnant should speak to their doctors first.