By Jillian Laumann, TTC Guest Blogger
My name is Jillian. I am 14 years old and I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus when I was born. I had my very first shunt put in when I was two weeks old. It lasted for three months. Then I had to have another surgery to replace the old one. I went to school like any other kid up to 5th grade. My whole elementary school experience was absolutely amazing. I met incredible people and, most importantly, didn’t have any shunt revisions.
On November 1, 2012, I had my first shunt revision in 12 years. I was always told that it is very rare for a shunt to last 12 years like mine did, so I felt very lucky. I was so nervous and scared about the surgery, though, because I didn’t know what was going to happen. After surgery, I was in pain but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Right then, I knew that for the rest of my life I would be able to deal with it.
When I entered the 6th grade, not only did my family move houses, I moved to a new school, which meant a whole new group of people. Right when I first stepped into the school I knew it was going to be a challenge. On the first day, everyone was staring at me because they didn’t recognize me, and because I was “weird” for having an illness. I got called names, pushed around, and even some of the teachers weren’t cooperating with and supportive of the whole situation.
Since then I have had six shunt revisions and one shunt infection. I was in the hospital for about two weeks trying to clear everything up. After that awful experience in the hospital and going to a bad school, my parents decided to homeschool me. I have been homeschooled for about four months and absolutely love it. I also haven’t had a surgery since I started. Hydrocephalus is one tricky thing to deal with. I went to a Hydrocephalus Association WALK event and met some amazing people with my same issue. That meant a lot to me because right then I knew that I was not alone. I also learned that we are all one big family.
I am only 14. I still have a whole life ahead of me – high school, dating, work, college – and I know that there will be times when I may not get accepted for who I am. But I also know that the right people will love me for me. I know that with hydrocephalus I am going to have to go through many hard or awful experiences, but I will look back and say, “I did it,” and look ahead and say, “I CAN DO IT!”