Toddler finally gets a good night sleep

6:16 PM, May 22, 2008   |    comments
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Lakeland, Florida - "It was Hell."

That's how David Lamb describes living with a child who can't sleep. "There are two Rhetts," says Lamb. "One, a sweet, loving child.  The other can get pretty irritable."

Who can blame 3-year-old Rhett Lamb? He gets a couple hours rest at night and a quick nap during the day if he's lucky. As a result of the sleep deprivation, he has speech and developmental problems.

His mother, Shannon Lamb, says she took him to doctors, therapists, behavioral specialists and put him on medication and diets, but he just couldn't get to sleep. "You would get him to bed and he would sleep with his eyes open," said Shannon Lamb.  "His eyes would follow you around the room."

The Lambs took turns staying up to make sure Rhett didn't hurt himself during temper tantrums. "He would bang his head so hard against the walls it would make holes."

Finally, in July, doctors discovered a deformity they believed may be the problem. Doctors diagnosed Lamb with Chiari Malformation, a condition where the brain tissue protrudes into your spinal canal and puts pressure on the brain stem. It occurs when a portion of your skull is small or misshapen.

On Friday, surgeons at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg removed pieces of bone from Rhett's skull and spine to take the pressure off his brain stem. Doctors told the Lambs there is a fifty percent chance that the surgery will be successful, and that it could take up to a year until they see results.

The procedure was not covered by insurance. The hospital is helping the family qualify for help through programs such as Medicade, the Federal Medically Needy Program or charity care through the hospital.

Two days after the surgery, Rhett slept through the night for the first time.

"It was great," said David Lamb. "I woke up and my eyes were all puffy, I turned to Shannon and asked 'Did he sleep through the night?'"

The family says they are noticing that after a good night sleep his behavior improved, but they are cautiously optimistic that they can put his condition to bed.

David Leonard, Tampa Bay's 10 News

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