Father and Infant Daughter Get Same Rare Brain Surgery 27 Years Apart

Soon after her birth, Charlotte's parents learned she had craniosynostosis a condition which occurs when a baby's skull bones fuse too early

Charlotte Misko
Zeb and Bethany Misko with daughter Charlotte. Photo: Courtesy of the Misko family

Father's Day will be extra special for one new dad.

Zeb and Bethany Misko's daughter Charlotte was born last year with a slightly oblong-shaped head, which doctors initially believed would go away with time. However, her parents soon learned their daughter had craniosynostosis, a condition which occurs when a baby's skull bones fuse too early — the same condition her father had 27 years earlier.

"Charlotte was originally born breech and the doctor said her head deformity would go away after a couple weeks," Zeb, 27, tells PEOPLE. "Well, it ended up being a month, month and a half, and it did not go away. Because I had the same diagnosis at 5 ½ months old we wanted to consult neurology."

"It's very shocking that we both ended up having it," he adds.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, where Charlotte underwent surgery when she was 6 months old, it's often impossible to identify a single cause of craniosynostosis, although it can run in families.

"It was something that we always had in the back of our mind but nobody was ever concerned about it during the pregnancy," says Bethany, also 27. "I didn't put much stock into it until we were a couple weeks out after birth."

Charlotte Misko
Charlotte Misko. Courtesy of the Misko family

Knowing Zeb had undergone the same surgery helped provide some relief for the couple.

"That gave us a sense of comfort," he shares. "I had the same total cranial bolt surgery 27 years ago and we were like, 'I'm sure that the medical technology and surgical procedures have only improved in those 27 years,' so we felt very comfortable with the team at the Cleveland Clinic performing the same exact surgery, just 27 years later."

For Charlotte's surgery, doctors made an incision across the crown of her head in order to expose her skull.

"Pretty much the way I explain it to families is my role is I take off all that bone," explains Charlotte's neurosurgeon, Dr. Violette Recinos. "The whole idea is we want to reshape the whole skull."

Recinos worked together with a plastic surgeon, Dr. Bahar Bassiri Gharb, to help expand and reshape Charlotte's skull so that she "has enough room for her brain to grow into."

Moving forward, Charlotte's doctors will continue to check up on her health.

"We're going to watch her pretty much yearly as she grows to make sure she's continuing to develop okay, that her head is growing and that it's growing with the improved head shape," says Recinos, adding that they want to make sure "she's not having any issues that would need some more intervention."

"But usually that's not the case," she says. "Usually it's a one and done thing."

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Charlotte Misko
Charlotte Misko. Courtesy of the Misko family
Charlotte Misko
Charlotte Misko. Courtesy of the Misko family

When they were able to reunite with their daughter after the surgery, Bethany says they felt a "huge relief."

"Then she opened her eyes shortly thereafter," she adds. "When they make eye contact with you and recognize you, then it's like, okay, there's my baby."

While Zeb says the "biggest milestone" was just the fact that "the surgery went perfectly," another significant moment took place in the hospital, about two days following the surgery, when they felt comfortable showing Charlotte while FaceTiming with family.

"Being hooked up to the monitors and everything, that's rough on anybody. She's the first grandchild on both sides, so it was particularly hard for the grandparents to not be able to be there," says Zeb.

And as soon as Charlotte heard the familiar FaceTime sounds she began smiling and "launched herself at the iPad," says Bethany, as Zeb adds that was the moment they knew "our baby's back."

Charlotte Misko
Charlotte Misko. Courtesy of the Misko family

Although the parents didn't get a lot of sleep after they first came back from the hospital, these days Charlotte is sleeping through the night — and back to being her "normal, smiley self."

As for Father's Day plans, Zeb says that they look forward to being able to "surround ourselves with family" and "just be really thankful for what we've all been through this year."

They also hope to be able to have at least one get together to celebrate Charlotte's first birthday in August.

"I have a feeling that the party's going to be, now that everybody's vaccinated, pretty big with family and some close friends that have babies about her age," says Bethany. "We definitely want to get a smash cake."

"She has five great-grandparents so they're definitely spoiling her to the nth degree, that's for sure," adds Zeb.

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