High Point, NC -- Ashley Honeycutt was in disbelief when doctor's diagnosed her nine month old daughter with coronal craniosynostosis.
"It was an emotional rollercoaster," she said. "You don't want to hear that your child is going in for surgery, especially something like this where their head is being cut open. You're so close to the brain."
If Ava did not have surgery for the birth defect, she could have deformities as she grew up, or even lose her sight and hearing.
Honeycutt had to wait two months before Ava was ready to have the surgery. Doctors at Brenner Children's Hospital had to re-construct Ava's skull to allow the brain and skull to grow properly.
"Once surgery day came I was almost relieved because I knew we were so close to being on the other side of this journey," said Honeycutt.
Now at 13 months, Ava is six weeks post-operation. Other than the zig-zag scar on her head, you would never know she had such a major surgery.
"She came home and within a day she acted like nothing had ever happened," said Honeycutt.
Honeycutt had a lot of trust in her pediatrician and the plastic surgeon's at Brenner Children's Hospital during the few months after Ava's diagnosis. She admits, she didn't delve into research and support groups until after the surgery.
Craniosynostosis affects one in every 2,000 kids according to the Jorge Posada Foundation.
Honeycutt started reaching out to some of these parents after the surgery. She was so relieved at how well Ava was doing, she wanted other parents to know that it would "be OK."
She was talking with another mom whose son hadn't had the surgery yet.
"Let me send her something," she said about her idea. "Just to tell her that we're in support of her and just so her son can have something that he can snuggle."
In collaboration with Meg's Gifts in High Point, she started "Ava's Elephants."
"We get these elephants. Meg's monograms them with the child's name and we send them out," said Honeycutt. "And this can be in North Carolina, to California. We just shipped one out to England."
Ashley said the stuffed elephant is a symbol of how these kids will grow to be "big and strong" like Ava.
"These children are so resilient. And they're strong"
Ava's Elephants is just a project right now. Honeycutt and Meg's Gifts hope to link it to a non-profit in the future.
If you're interested in learning more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can mail donations to:
P.O. Box 6437
High Point, NC 27262
Check out http://www.cappskids.org/ to learn more on craniosynotosis. Honeycutt said the site has been a great resource to her.
WFMY News 2