Saturday, August 04, 2007

Back at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland Jean was back in her three bed ward next to the nurse's station.

The diagnosis was hydrocephalus. As I understand it, the brain constantly exudes spinal fluid that is drained into the spine through a series of valves in the area of the brain. In the course of surgery or other trauma it is not unusual for blood to clog some of these valves.

So in fact a pool of spinal fluid had been accumulating in her head and pressing on the brain. The next step was a surgery to install a shunt to replace the blocked valves and allow the constantly oozing fluid to drain.

Fluid drained and Jean was her smiling former self.

The problem was to allow the fluid in the closed system to drain at an ideal pressure. A relatively new technology was used. the Wade-Dahl-Till or WDT valved shunt.

Patricia Neal was an academy award winning American actress married to English author Roald Dahl. They lived in London and had five children.

The youngest, Theo, was struck by a car while being wheeled across a street in his pram by a nurse. A head injury resulted in a hydrocephalus condition.

Mr Dahl aside from being an author with some popular movies to his credit was also a former Wing Comander in the air force during World War II. He called on some of his comrades from the war who were hydraulic engineers to assist him in devising a shunt from the ventrical of the brain to the atrium of the heart.

An American engineer had invented a valve for his son that proved unwieldly but in the course of his experiments had come up with a combination of silicone and rubber that was inert to body chemestry and in fact is used today in breast implants and heart repairs.

The WDT was first used in 1962 but even in 1974 it was still a novelty at Oregon Medical School because the good professors of neurosurgery did not install it quite right


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