Darla's Story

Hydrocephalus. I've had it since I was born and have been shunted since I was 1 week old. I guess you would think I would be "used" to it and its effects and down falls. This assumption could not be further from the truth.

The longest I've gone without surgery is 4 years. That might seem like a long time, right? Well, it's not to me. I went from age 11 to age 15 with no problems. At age 15, everything went downhill until I finally had surgery again at age 18. In 4 years, a lot can happen. Driver's licenses, CNA licenses, first jobs, and probably just about everything else you can think of. I'm not necessarily guaranteed that 4-year-span.

The longest I've had 2 shunt systems function without incident varies. I've had distal catheters last 6 years at the most. I've had shunt catheters and reservoirs last anywhere from 11 months to a whopping 10 years. The thing is, I've had a lot of problems with all the components of shunt systems. I've had disconnections, infections, blockages, bleeding, cellulitis, etc. You name it, I've had it happen.

Driving used to scare the daylights out of me. I was involved in a head-on-collision December 1st, 2007 with Grandma driving. We slid on ice. For a very long time, I was afraid to even be in a car without being curled up in a ball. I remember when I was with my mom driving on the road with her semi job, I had a safety net that was just actually for storage, all belted around me while I slept in the bed. On the radio, if I heard the song that played on the radio in the accident, I would cry or start shaking and panicking.

Now, I'm driving by myself sometimes and almost ready for the road test. My mom just needs to get the car fixed. That's all I'm waiting on! I've come a very long way. My mom wouldn't have trusted me with the car driving by myself if she didn't feel I was totally ready for it.

The prospect of being enrolled in college and ready to go is exciting, leaves me awe-strucked, and terrifies me to no end all at the same time. I'm excited more than words can say to be learning tasks and information that is actually important to what I want to do with my life. I never thought I would get this far because of the surgeries and hydrocephalus and such, but here I am! I still have that still small voice in my head that keeps reminding me Darla, you have shunts. You have hydrocephalus. You can't possibly expect to be able to finish college let alone get yourself a career! Note to Darla's brain: Thank you SO much for being such a supportive thing in my life! Sometimes, I REALLY despise you!

I first started my CNA (certified nursing assistant) class on September 16th, 2009. I officially finished the class November 10th of that year. I took the Illinois State Licensing Exam on December 12th, only 10 days after having surgery to treat another cellulitis infection that attacked my stomach. I've finally gotten to the point that I'm healthy enough to work. This point has been a long tme coming for sure!

I applied at Exceptional Care and Training Center in Sterling Illinois. It's one of only 4 state facilities that has residential care and day training programs for developmentally disabled adults. I found out about the center when my CNA class took a mini field trip there. Personally, I LOVED it! I loved the people there and I loved how everyone seemed so happy and the residents seemed very well cared for! When asked, my entire class said they would not be applying at the center for a job. I loved that too because then I would have a lot of open slots for a job! I'm not bothered by drooling, nonverbal, noncommunicating, wheelchair-bound people.

It doesn't bother me one bit. I also think a reason I loved this center so much when I first walked into it is because if my hydrocephalus had been worse or not caught in time or not treated in time, I could have been bound to live life just like the residents there. It humbled me a bit. I find out Wednesday if the Director of Nursing is back from her duties and I can schedule an interview. I know I'll get the job. I'll get the job because I really want it and I've shown that by incessantly calling and leaving messages.

Now,I am possibly facing surgery #49.Since 2009, I have faced many complications and have had to postpone my return to college. Although Hydrocephalus has complicated my life, I do my best to live it to the fullest.