Twelve-year-old Kennard Winston was a typical sixth grader who loved playing all kinds of sports, particularly football, when physicians at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) discovered a large cystic mass in his abdomen.
His mother, Myosha, knew something was wrong when Kennard stopped eating well and began experiencing discomfort in his stomach. He was in and out of school for several months while the family tried medicinal solutions, but Kennard continued to lose weight and his stomach became distended.
"Kennard lost about 30 pounds over three months," says Myosha, "and he didn't have any extra weight to lose in the first place."
The gastroenterology team at CHoR performed an ultrasound on Kennard and saw that a large mass—about the size of a watermelon—was putting pressure on his intestine.
"We discovered that Kennard had a rare congenital cyst," says Jeffrey Haynes, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics, CHoR. "This is something he had his whole life. Eventually the cyst began to fill up with fluid and got so large that it displaced his bowel, leading to decreased appetite and constipation."
Myosha explains that one of the most difficult side effects of her son's condition was the emotional toll that it took on him. "Kennard felt so self-conscious when his stomach looked that big," she says. "He didn't want to go anywhere, and when he had to be outside he would hunch over to try to hide it."
Despite the large size of the cyst, Dr. Haynes was able to remove it with a minimally invasive procedure. "We were able to drain the fluid from the cyst first," Dr. Haynes explains, "and then remove the cyst itself through a small incision around Kennard's belly button."
A six inch segment of bowel was removed with the cyst, and Kennard remained at the hospital for a little over a week for monitoring. Myosha stayed by his side the whole time, and within four days after the surgery Kennard started eating again.
"The surgery benefited all of us as a family," says Myosha. "Kennard started smiling more, laughing, joking and talking about food just like he used to."
Today, Kennard is feeling like his old self, and he says he looks forward to enjoying some of his favorite foods again: "pasta salad, macaroni and cheese, greens with vinegar, and a rack of ribs!"
Myosha remembers getting a phone call after she had brought Kennard home after the surgery. "Dr. Haynes called from his house to check on Kennard," she says,"and I could tell he really wanted to know how he was doing. It touched my heart, seeing him care about Kennard as if he was his own child."