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Jada’s Story: Living with hydrocephalus

Published by , on Sep 30, 2013

Jada Dandridge is a typical 13-year-old who loves fashion and dance. However, Jada has experienced much more in her 13 years than most adults. Jada was born prematurely, weighing just 1 lb. 12 oz. and was diagnosed early in life with hydrocephalus, a condition that causes a buildup of pressure on the brain. Although her condition worries Jada’s mother, Nicole, she takes comfort in her second family, the compassionate and cutting-edge neurosurgery team at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR).JadaSeptember is Hydrocephalus Awareness Month and we’re shedding light on the somewhat misunderstood condition. Hydrocephalus is characterized by cerebral spinal fluid (sometimes called brain water) not properly draining, causing pockets to enlarge and put pressure on the brain.“Some people are born with hydrocephalus, while others develop it later in life,” said JoAnn Tillett, registered nurse with CHoR’s neurosurgery team.” What many people do not realize, is that one person with hydrocephalus may live an almost completely normal life, like Jada, while someone else may be severely mentally handicapped,” said Tillett.At only 4-months-old, Jada had a shunt placed to help drain excess fluid from her brain. Nicole is thankful that her daughter has progressed so well, only requiring one follow-up surgery to adjust her shunt.   Nicole feels fortunate for the support she receives from CHoR.“We love Ms. Joann, Dr. Tye and Dr. Ward dearly,” said Nicole. “Last August, Jada went into the hospital for a revision surgery. Dr. Tye and Ms. Joann were there the entire time to answer questions and to provide support. They were honest, even at times when we didn’t want to hear the truth, and comforted us when we were down.”The teachers at John Rolfe Middle School have been supportive of Jada and her condition as well. The administration has allowed Nicole to select Jada’s teachers, who have been educated on Jada’s condition through materials CHoR has provided them.“Jada is in advanced classes in addition to other activities outside of school and that’s because we feel her condition shouldn’t limit her or set her back,” says Nicole. “We explained to her at an early age that she is a little different from other people and what may come easy to some will take her several times to accomplish. As she gets older she understands that she has to work harder at everything than the average person.”Nicole hopes educating others about hydrocephalus will spread awareness and help foundations raise funds to increase research on the disease, which has oftentimes vague or unknown causes, and as of yet, has no cure. This worries Nicole, who says, “It’s scary because the symptoms are similar to those of a common cold, so the condition is often mistreated. To date there is no cure and the only way to correct a malfunction is to operate and hope it doesn’t malfunction again. It is no way for a child to live.”For the past three years, the Dandridge family has participated in the National Capital 5K walk/run in Washington, D.C. to raise awareness and funds for hydrocephalus and to show support for those who are fighting and those who have lost the fight to hydrocephalus. This walk reminds the Dandridge family  that every day is a blessing.“Every morning, I kiss Jada because I am so happy she made it to see another day,” says Nicole.If you or someone you know suffers from hydrocephalus, join the State of Virginia Hydrocephalus Association Community Network on Facebook for support.

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