Friday, March 22, 2013

Media views on Hydrocephalus: Roald and Theo Dahl

This is my third "media views on Hydrocephalus" post. It fits well into the original subject that I had chosen for my blog, and my previous posts on the subject are the ones that are most often searched for on Google, according to my blog stats. I have a number of people I've been planning on writing about, and someone had searched for something similar and ended up reading at least one of my posts this week. So if it's searched again, I want this post to be seen. Hopefully it's exactly what someone is looking for.

Roald Dahl was an author more commonly known as a Children's author, but he also wrote adult fiction and non-fiction, screenplays, short stories and also wrote for television. Some of his children's books included James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Matilda. Some of the screenplays he wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Some television shows he worked on includes Way Out, which was similar to Twilight Zone and several Alfred Hitchcock movies.

Dahl was married to Patricia Neal, he had five children. In December 1960, his middle child and only son Theo's son's baby carriage was struck by a taxi. This resulted in him developing Hydrocephalus. At the time there were shunts available for treatment, but it was a very new technology. At the time the shunts had a much higher failure rate than it does today (and currently half of all shunts fail during the first two years).It also had a higher chance of resulting brain damage if they not replaced right away.

In Theo's case his shunt had blocked six times in nine months. Each time he would go temporally blind and they were never sure that his vision would come back after each revision, or how much brain damage had been done. 

This inspired Dahl to develop a new shunt other than the Holter shunt that had been used for a few years at the time, and was the first successful shunt. During the next couple years with the help of Toy Creator, Stanley Wade he would succeed in the development of a new shunt. The main differences between his and the previous shunt was that the shunt wouldn't touch the brain during the placement reducing the risk of cerebral debris getting in and steel discs, which gave the shunt a wider area to drain the fluid.

By the time the shunt was Developed Theo no longer needed a shunt, but for the next couple years after (1962-1964) Dahl's shunt was used in two to three thousand children worldwide. This was Dahl's first major influence in medicine, but not his last. After his daughter died from measles encephalitis, he became an advocate for immunization. Then after Patricia Neal had a series of strokes, he created his own rehab treatment to help her recover.

I've been looking forward to writing about Dahl and his son more than authors, because of my childhood interest in him that in a way continues on into today. My third grade teacher had us read many of his books, At least six of his them that I can remember. We watched at least a few of the movies that was based on his books as well, and then I saw another in the theaters when it came out the year after I was in his class (James and the Giant Peach). I knew very little about Dahl himself at the time, but it's interesting to me now that the author that wrote all those books helped developed a medical device that has kept me alive the whole time. Thanks for reading; I plan on writing more "media views on Hydrocephalus" posts in the near future. But I'll be including some others and more guest blogs from my friend Keyt.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rosemary Kennedy's lobotomy

I've written a couple times about specific famous people who have hydrocephalus,rather it's a celebrity or a character. I have many more people to cover in that subject,but I'll also like to bring attention to well known people who have had some other kind of brain injury or brain surgery.Today I'll like to talk about someone from a well known family,who isn't exactly well known herself.

Her three brothers who lived passed thirty were well known politicians, her oldest brother died in the second world war. One of those brothers was John Kennedy,the thirty-fifth president of the United States who was assassinated in office. Another brother was assassinated while running for president in 1968.

Rosemary was disabled from early on in her life,possibly because of a delayed birth depriving her brain of oxygen. Her disability was intellectual,and she had a low IQ.During puberty she began to have violent mood swings that her family couldn't figure out how to control.

Now as we're learning more and more about traumatic brain injuries,we can identify these problems. We can pinpoint why certain side effects happen,and in some cases at least how we can recover from them and overcome. But this was several decades ago and very little was known about any neurological problem. Also  the Kennedy's were already popular figures,although nothing compared to who they would be a couple decades later. So how they were seen were a lot more important than most people,and again because of the lack of knowledge about TBI her family at least in a way was ashamed of her.

In order to try to control her mood swings,her father had a surgeon give her a lobotomy. A lobotomy is basically a brain operation removing part of the frontal lobe,cutting off most of the connections to the prefrontal cortex. The purpose is to help people with psychological disorders. It has become less controversial and more common in the last couple of decades. But at the time the procedure was only several years, and they hadn't figure out the "right" way of doing it. In Rosemary's case they ended up going "too deep" resulting in a much more severe disability, and wasn't able to care for herself, or perform daily functions like she had been able to do before, including even communicating effectively.

I had a hard time finding websites or blogs,either that seemed to have legit information, if anything more than basic information. It seemed like every website I've gone to lately looking for information for this blog post had different information than the other. Usually I don't like to do this, because of how the site runs it tends to not have accurate information. But I used Wikipedia just because,in this case it was my best way of getting the most accurate information for this post. Thanks for reading.