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Walk to End Hydrocephalus — ‘water in the brain’ — comes to Orange County

Published October 7, 2019

Walk to End Hydrocephalus — ‘water in the brain’ — comes to Orange County by Susan Christian Goulding


Given the choice, his parents would have wished a different sort of honor for him. Even so, Aiden Garibaldo could star as the poster child for hydrocephalus. Giddily hopscotching, rolling, swinging, pedaling and tumbling, the effervescent three-year-old seems not to possess a grumpy bone in his body. For Aiden, playtime at Centra Pediatric in Tustin doubles as occupational therapy.

Adrianna Garibaldo and Kenneth McMurray, Aiden’s parents, will be among hundreds participating in the inaugural Orange County Walk to End Hydrocephalus on Saturday, Oct. 12. The nationwide event is sponsored by the Hydrocephalus Association. "Los Angeles has been involved for a while,” said Garibaldo, an organizer for the fundraiser. “We decided it was time to raise awareness and resources here, too.”

Since his diagnosis as an infant, Aiden has undergone 18 surgeries to manage fluid buildup inside his skull. The Irvine boy wears his battle scars beneath a scrappy crew cut. Also called “water in the brain,” hydrocephalus causes excess spinal fluid to accumulate in the brain’s cavities. The condition can develop at any age but is usually first seen in children. Its symptoms include abnormal growth of the cranium, severe headaches and learning setbacks.

Hydrocephalus is not uncommon, affecting more than one out of 1,000 newborns. However, research to improve treatment has been far too scarce, said Michael Muhonen, director of the Neuroscience Institute at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

“It’s almost archaic that we still rely on implanting shunts in the brain – shunts that are attached to five-foot-long plastic tubes leading to the tummy,” said Muhonen, honorary chairman for the Orange County walk. “Hydrocephalus is not a highly studied field.”

With hydrocephalus, the body does not naturally absorb enough of the spinal fluid produced to cushion the brain. The shunt acts to drain liquid directly to the stomach.

But the life-saving system, first devised in the 1950s, comes with major drawbacks – mainly, blockages and infections that require additional surgeries.

Just this past summer, Aiden spent weeks in the hospital due to such complications. Each extended stay throws an obstacle in his development.

“When he came home, he didn’t remember certain words,” said Garibaldo, 24, a college student. “He is having to relearn some skills.”

Occupational therapist Iris Lin saw a change from June to September, when Aiden was ready to return.

“He’s weaker, with lower muscle tone,” she said. “But he has the same personality – very positive and happy.”

McMurray, 28, who works for The Gas Company servicing appliances, said his son “comes out of surgery smiling.”

“He’s an amazing little guy,” McMurray said. “He’s been through so much but he always has that smile on his face.”

The Hydrocephalus Association’s motto is “No More BS” – as in, no more brain surgeries.

“We are thankful for every day that Aiden doesn’t need surgery,” Garibaldo said. “That could be taken away from us at any moment

Read More here from the OC Register Website!

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