Sporting pigtails, sparkly sneakers and an angelic smile, 2-year-old Savanna Bluford enters Boston Children's Colorectal and Pelvic Malformation Center. The playful toddler's attention quickly turns to the Center's co-director Dr. Belinda Dickie. The two light up with smiles and exchange hugs as if old friends — and that, they are.
Savanna was born in South Carolina with cloacal malformation, a rare and complex condition that occurs when the bladder, colon and vaginal channels are connected. This connection causes a mixing of stool and urine, which exit the body from the same location. The malformation also impacts the spinal cord.
In order to correct Savanna's condition — which affects one in 250,000 children — she will undergo a multi-staged, multi-year reconstruction process to repair all three systems.
With multiple surgeries ahead, a team of Boston Children's experts has been called into action. Dickie and Dr. Leonel Rodriguez, center co-directors; Dr. Joseph Borer and Dr. Erin McNamara from Urology; and Dr. Benjamin Warf from Neurosurgery make up Savanna's care team. "There are very few centers in the U.S. and world that take care of Savanna's condition," Dickie says. "We have a wonderful, highly specialized and innovative team assembled who have the clinical expertise and compassion to work with these kids."
Today, Savanna, who manages ongoing medical appointments and the physical challenges of a colostomy bag, is a happy, loving, spunky toddler who loves her family, hugs and kisses. She is also doing all the things she loves, including cruising around her neighborhood in her motorized princess car, going to the beach and attending a toddler tumbling class.
"Savanna is a child with so much life and joy and really brings a smile to everyone's face when you meet her," Dickie says. "Every visit with Savanna amazes me — how well she is doing, how adjusted she is and what a fabulous job her parents are doing with her."
For Savanna's parents, Andrika and Derrik, regular trips from South Carolina to Boston are worth it. "Dr. Dickie truly inspires us and makes us feel confident," says Andrika. "She is passionate about Savanna's well-being and future quality of life, and she is very competent and skilled to manage the care of kids like our daughter. We've learned that she is not only our surgeon but we're a team. She will always be a hero to us."