Laughing, Weeping, Living

Life happens. You laugh about it or cry about it, sometimes both.


on October 3, 2013

Agnes is getting a shunt placed on Tuesday morning. The neurosurgeon has been following her brain ventricles since she was born, and waiting for the situation to reach the critical stage when it would become unwise to delay further. Agnes has reached that stage. The ventricles in her brain are sufficiently swollen that they are compressing her brain tissues, pressure is building, and her head circumference has grown by a significant amount since the last check up. The neurosurgeon explained that now is the time to place a shunt, since the brain tissue will have a better chance to regain its natural position and limit the amount of lasting damage.

The  surgery sounds fairly straightforward, you know, as far as brain surgery goes. They will snake a catheter through the fatty layer of skin from Agnes’ scalp down to her abdomen. One end of the tube will poke through her skull and into the ventricle. The other end will poke into the peritoneal area of her trunk, where the excess brain fluid will be absorbed into her bloodstream. The surgeon will place lots of extra tubing in Agnes’ abdomen, so theoretically, this shunt can last a lifetime and “grow” with her. However, it is exceedingly common for shunts to require “revisions,” if the valve or the tube gets clogged, if the valve malfunctions, if the shunt becomes infected. In the informational booklet, it seemed like the personal stories ran the whole gamut: some kids needed a revision several times a year, some only needed a few their whole life.

Now, according to Dr. Optimist, Agnes will be in the hospital for one night only. “Unless something comes up.” The usual hospital stay for a shunt placement is one to three nights. There is the possibility that Agnes’ shunt will not be able to drain into her abdomen because the scar tissue from her other surgeries may not allow for the fluid to absorb. In that case, she will receive a new shunt that drains into her heart. This is not preferred because the surgeon can’t put extra tubing, only the correct amount for Agnes’ size. This kind of shunt would definitely need regular revisions to resize the tubing as Agnes grows. So if that ends up being the shunt Agnes needs, that would extend her hospitalization next week. Also she is more susceptible to infections because of her trach. So long story short, I hope the neurosurgeon didn’t hear my mental smirk when he said she’ll be in for one night only. I’m expecting a few nights, hopefully home by the weekend. Wouldn’t that be a nice change of pace, to have a brief hospital stay?

In other news, Jeremy and I took Agnes to see Fr. Michael Gaitley speak at a local Catholic parish. He talked about enriching the faith through devotion to Mary and the Divine Mercy. We got to meet him and he signed our books of his that we have. We also asked him to say a prayer and blessing for Agnes. It was so nice to to hear a holy talk and get a blessing from a holy priest!

I urge you to check out his works. Jeremy and I did the 33 Days to Morning Glory consecration to Jesus through Mary, and I can honestly say that I have never felt closer to Mary and Jesus than I did when I was doing that program. Fr. Gaitley’s whole thing is to awaken the fire in our hearts, fire of devotion, fire of faith, and to evangelize! His consecration program certainly did that for me, and I can see his own fire when he speaks. It was a joy to hear his talk!

2013-10-03 20.54.07

3 responses to “SHUNT

  1. Daphne says:

    Judy, as always we are praying for a good outcome. My “little” sister has the most severe form of spina bifida. She had so many complications that she has been written into medical journals. She was never supposed to be a teenager. She is now 26! She is paralyzed and in a wheelchair, has a full colostomy since birth, a permanent catheter and a shunt. She has had her shunt fixed twice in her lifetime. She is a joy most of the time and we wouldn’t trade her. It will work.

    On another note, our parish is doing 33 Days to Morning Glory with Consecration on Immaculate Conception!


  2. woodra01 says:

    Keeping Agnes in my thoughts. Much love to you.

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