Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Shunt Life

Sometimes malfunctions are obvious because your child is in pain, lethargic, or constantly vomiting. Sometimes shunts stop working and your child does not show any symptoms. This is why we have routine shunt check-ups every year or so with an MRI or CT scan and then an appointment with the neurosurgeon to review it.

Shelby and I were at Duke yesterday for one of those routine check-ups. We were fully expecting an excellent report so Trip did not accompany us. Shelby did well with the sedation and was still pretty loopy in the examination room when Dr. Grant showed me the brain scans and we compared them with her scans back in April of 2012. Yesterday's scans showed obvious compression on her right ventricle. Dr. Grant said he has no idea what is happening, but the shunt is not doing what it is supposed to and Shelby needs a new one before her left ventricle becomes affected.

It is not lost on me that today is June 12th. Shelby received her first shunt at Duke on June 12, 2009 when she was only a week old. Shelby's shunt replacement surgery is scheduled for next Thursday, June 20th. Three shunts in four years is not cool at all, but there are many people who have had it worse. So goes life with hydrocephalus and a brain shunt.

I am trying not to have a pity party for myself or Shelby so here are the positives:
1. We probably caught this early and Shelby is not sick or in pain right now. This is not an emergency situation. We will not have to go to the ER or take an ambulance to Duke (like last time). 
2. Next Thursday will not be our first rodeo (so to speak). We know what to expect with this surgery and recovery. Shelby will probably be walking around, playing her piano, pushing her baby in the stroller and being her usual sassy self by Saturday.
3. It is summer break and I won't have to take any time off of work (wait, IS this a positive?).
4. Dr. Grant is awesome and we have complete confidence in the care that Shelby receives at Duke Children's.

We head to the beach on Saturday and then will be cutting our vacation short to go to Duke. As always, we appreciate your prayers and positive thoughts for our sweet girl.


  1. So sorry to hear this, Tiffany. I don't consider it a pity party to be upset, either...will keep you guys in my prayers!

  2. I am so sorry to hear this. When you say "compression", does that mean that her left ventricle is smaller than the right? Could it be that the shunt is over draining and it is only affecting the right side? I have had just one planned shunt surgery out of 16 and it was odd walking into the OR without shunt failure symptoms. Shelby and your family will be in my prayers in the coming days.

  3. Casey, thanks for your comments. We were really trying to say that portions of her brain on the right side were compressed because of the increased pressure and enlarged ventricle. Turns out the valve was completely blocked, but the surgery went well and we are all back home. We will post an update soon.


  4. I'm so glad to hear that the surgery went well!