Justin is a typical 7-year old boy. He plays basketball and soccer, is on a Little League team, and is taking piano lessons. What sets Justin apart from his fellow second-graders is that between late July and early November he had four major surgeries on his brain.
Like my 6-year old son, Josh, Justin has hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain. This causes pressure and can result in brain damage, physical disabilities, hearing loss, blindness and even death.
There is no cure for hydrocephalus and the standard treatment is to place one end of a shunt tube into the ventricle to drain the excess fluid out, typically to the abdomen. A one-way valve is placed on the tube to regulate the flow. Once a shunt is placed, the child must have one for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, an estimated 50% of shunts fail within two years and must be replaced, often multiple times.