HYDROCEPHALUS: NEED FOR AWARENESS
By: Mbalenhle Sithebe
“I knew nothing about hydrocephalus until my unborn child was diagnosed with it. All I knew was that my baby’s head was too big and filled with fluid.”
Mamohapi Seisa had been informed of her son’s disorder by her family doctor at her sixth month fetal ultrasound visit.
Not knowing much about the disorder, she thought that the doctor had overrated the condition because her firstborn son had a big head at birth, genetically like his father.
Seisa gave birth at Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Umtata because it was the only hospital with a neurologist that was close to her home at Matatiele.
At birth, Seisa’s son had a head circumference larger than normal and he also had spinal bifida.
Seisa stayed two months in hospital with no progress or explanation of what was happening with her child. “The next thing I was discharged but they had done nothing to help my son,” said Seisa.
She was given another date to come back for her son’s operation to insert a shunt. She said that the hospital was so terrible that she thought she was going to lose her son. There were patients who were there for more than “four months but had not received any assistance”.
The hospital staff members refused to comment. Seisa spent more than eight weeks looking for help in government hospitals, “I went to Kokstad where they transferred me to Pietermaritzburg.”
She failed to wait for the date she was given because it was too far. She then came to Durban where she was also sent from one hospital to another.
R.K Khan Hospital nurses told her to go back to Umtata because that was where she gave birth. That time her son’s head had grown to 59cm almost equal to an adult head.
According to The World Health Organization (WHO) figures, 0.6 children per 1 000 are born with a neural tube disorder a higher birth prevalence are in rural areas.
A nurse at Mount Fletcher Hospital, Tumelo Motekoane, explained that Hydrocephalus is an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain’s ventricles. Those who suffer from it producing up to seven spoonfuls an hour while the average person produces one,”
He added that the cause could be teratogenic which refers to the use of drugs “in the first trimester” such as alcohol, some illegal drugs, antibiotics and other over the counter medications including isotretinoin and vitamin A.
“This is estimated that 1 to 3% of babies are born with birth defects each year,” he said.
A week before Human Rights Day, Seisa’s son was admitted to St Augustine Hospital after his father’s application for medical aid was approved.
Her son had a shunt inserted to help drain cerebrospinal fluid and was awaiting an operation for Spina Bifida.
Even though Seisa’s son got help in time, he may still face some complications that include seizures, vomiting and restriction to play sports because any injuries may cause the shunt to block.
According to Hydrocephalus and shunts- Spina Bifida Association, almost all shunts are put in during the first days or weeks after birth to avoid most of the side effects.