Rachel Blackerby
Jefferson County
Feature Story
Rachel Blackerby was born in 1998, a perfectly healthy looking, beautiful newborn baby. She had a strange mark, a lack of pigmentation, around her left ear and jawline. Over the next couple weeks this strange mark swelled into a purple/red tumor that appeared to spread with each passing day. It was a compound hemangioma, a rare version, that threatened to cover her entire face. The hemangioma not only swelled on the surface of her face, but was deeply embedded under the surface as well.

Rachel was seen at 10 weeks old by a vascular birthmark specialist, Dr. Paul Gardner, at Children’s of Alabama. She began a series of nine monthly laser surgeries to try and contain this hemangioma. At 11 months old, after nine laser surgeries, the hemangioma quit growing and her face was saved. At 5 years old, Rachel had plastic surgery to remove the remaining scar tissue and residual hemangioma. At 14 years old, she went through the final round of plastic surgery to remove the scar tissue.

In addition to the hemangioma, Rachel was also diagnosed with Supravalvular Aortic Stenosis, a congenital heart disorder shared by her father, and Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT). Dr. Bennett Pearce, a pediatric cardiologist, began seeing her for these conditions. The SVT required frequent trips to the Children’s emergency department to restore a normal heart rhythm.

Rachel has since had two heart catheterizations at 3 and 13 years old. At 5 years old, she had radiofrequency catheter ablation to correct the SVT.

We are so thankful for the care Rachel has received, and continues to receive, at Children’s of Alabama. She has a normal and active life today because of this great hospital. Rachel is our miracle!