Teen Voices: Hydrocephalus has Changed My Life

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by: Teresa Smith

I am amazed at how hydrocephalus has changed my life…but I would not change it. Here is my story.

Within weeks of my birth the doctor expressed concerns about the amount of growth of my head. My parents were referred to a neurologist who diagnosed me with communicating hydrocephalus. Then I was sent to an amazing neurosurgeon who inserted a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt into my brain. As many parents of individuals with hydrocephalus can relate, my parents were warned that I may not walk or develop properly. The biggest immediate threat following the surgery was an infection. Once the doctors were comfortable that I was okay, I was able to go home where I continued to develop and grow normally.

When I was ready to start school, my mom decided to homeschool me for multiple reasons. I had problems learning and I had trouble memorizing information, especially with math. Even though I had many problems learning in school, I loved being homeschooled and I believe that my mom made a wonderful choice. She was able to enrich my environment with different activities to supplement where I had problems. I adored animals specifically horses, and I also enjoyed swimming and being outdoors.

Then things started to change again. I soon became very sick and once the doctors realized that my shunt had failed, they performed a second brain surgery to revise my VP shunt. Although the surgery was successful, I was still having issues. After testing and diagnosing the problem, my doctors said that I needed an additional surgery. This one, however, was to put a valve in. Once the third surgery was complete, I began to get going again and have been thriving ever since.

Although the physical struggles have been problematic, I sometimes think the psychological impacts of having hydrocephalus have been more difficult to deal with. I think that the most difficult thing to deal with as a child was when I saw other children, who were a year younger than I was, be ahead of me in school grades. While this is still difficult to deal with, I have not allowed that to stop me from trying. As a result of not giving up, I have obtained my General Education Degree. While I still am not able to be fully independent yet, I am enrolled in a private university and I am going for my goals.

Currently, my desire is to complete a Bachelors of Arts degree in psychology and then to move into a Masters of Arts program related to counseling or social work. I want these degrees so that I have the knowledge and opportunity to help other people who have disabilities as well. I have come to better understand of my own disability through studying in school and through assistance from the Hydrocephalus Association. As I have learned and developed, I now have a greater understanding for other people who also deal with different types of disabilities.

As I have started taking control over my own health care, I have learned so much more about my medical condition and the impact that hydrocephalus has had on my life. While life can present itself with strange twists, it is ultimately my choice to stand tall against the trials or to let the struggles trample me down, ruining my potential. I choose to keep becoming a stronger, more empowered individual as each day and each semester at the university passes. I can do this, I will do this, and hydrocephalus will not stop me!

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