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  • 16-Year-Old Madison Fleming From New York Selected as 2018 National Ambassador of Hydrocephalus Awareness for Incurable Brain Condition

    January 10, 2018 by  
    Filed under Uncategorized


    16-Year-Old Madison Fleming From New York Selected as 2018 National Ambassador of Hydrocephalus Awareness for Incurable Brain Condition

    madison Madison was born four weeks early and weighed 4lbs 4oz. Three weeks after Madison was born she was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus caused by a cerebral hemorrhage. After numerous fontanelle taps she had her first shunt placed at 1 month old. Since her first shunt was placed she has had 5 emergency brain surgeries to replace/fix the shunt. Four of those emergency brain surgeries were within 9 months of each other.

    Other than the brain surgeries that Madison has gone through she has also faced eye surgeries, learning disabilities, debilitating migraines, and years of physical therapy.

    With all the challenges that Madison has faced she has pushed herself to compete in ice hockey, lacrosse, cross country and horseback riding.

    Madison has worked hard in school and will be graduating high school a year early. She plans on attending SUNY Jefferson in the fall of 2018 to become an RN.

    3-Year-Old Owen Davidson From Tennessee Selected as 2018 National Ambassador of Hydrocephalus Awareness for Incurable Brain Condition

    January 9, 2018 by  
    Filed under Uncategorized


    3-Year-Old Owen Davidson From Tennessee Selected as 2018 National Ambassador of Hydrocephalus Awareness for Incurable Brain Condition

    owen Owen was born October 20th 2014 along with his twin sister Shelby. When he was born, he was having a hard time breathing. They sent him to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. The first few days were rough. They diagnosed him with SVT. It’s a heart condition. Then as days passed they told us he had a IVH grade 3 on the left and grade 4 on the right brain bleed. Then they said this word.. (Hydrocephalus).

    As parents we didn’t really understand what this was. So we did our research and we were heartbroken because we didn’t know when, why, or how this happened. We wanted answers, but they really couldn’t tell us anything. They did so many taps to keep the fluid off, we lost count. He had to have 2 blood transfusions.

    He was too little to have the surgery. So at 1 month of age the VP Shunt was placed. Everything went great, he came home after a 40 day nicu stay. At 15 months he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. We were heartbroken again. They first said spastic quadriplegic CP. Then changed it to mixed cerebral palsy.

    At 18 months of age he had his first revision and, oh my goodness, this was bad. We almost lost him because we couldn’t get anyone to listen to us. All they would stay he doesn’t have the symptom of a shunt malfunction. No tests were done. So we had enough. We took him to the ER at the Vanderbilt children’s hospital.

    The scan came back yes his shunt has malfunction and he needs surgery right now. During the surgery while they were removing the other shunt he had another brain bleed. So they had to do a EVD til all the blood was gone. So after 23 days in the picu his vp shunt was placed.

    Owen has had other surgeries not hydro related. But Owen is one true fighter. He has a lot of family supporting him in this journey. He has his Mother Crystal, Father Rodney, brother Hunter, sisters Cheyenne and Faith and his twin sister Shelby. We all love him unconditionally. He always keeps a smile on his face. He is a true inspiration.

    He is 3 yrs old now and everything is going good.

    2018: National Ambassadors of Hydrocephalus Awareness

    November 16, 2017 by  
    Filed under Uncategorized


    “National Ambassadors of Hydrocephalus Awareness” Campaign 2018:

    The PHF is looking for one boy and one girl to serve as our National Spokesperson for our 2018 National Hydrocephalus Awareness Campaign.

    These 2 National Ambassadors will be featured in marketing and promotional materials all through the year ending in September 2018 with National Hydrocephalus Awareness Month.

    The National Ambassadors & their families will receive a 2 night complimentary stay @ the Embassy Suites Hotel for the 2018 PHF Issues & Action Hydrocephalus Conference in Washington, DC on August 16th & August 17th. (Travel not included.)

    We will randomly select ONE boy and ONE girl from all entries received. Submit a picture of your nominee, between the ages of newborn to 19 years old, with their name and D.O.B. (These pictures MUST BE E-MAILED to mike@hydrocephaluskids.org- Facebook entries are not valid)

    To enter, email a picture of your nominee, (between the ages of newborn to 19 years old), with their name, D.O.B. & current city & state)

    Contest ends 12/31/2017 & Winners announced on 1/2/2018
    * Submit one picture of your nominee*, between the ages of newborn to 19 years old, with their name, D.O.B., and location. (*By submitting a picture you authorize the PHF to use the picture for promotional purposes).
    * Previous winners are not eligible.
    * Only one entry per child will be accepted. Siblings with Hydrocephalus can be entered separately.
    * PHF Board of Directors & State Chapter Directors are eligible to participate and enter their child.

    Check out the picture galleries of everyone who has been entered:

    The Boys
    The Girls

    Fairfield Couple Co-Hosts ZenRide Benefit To Honor Their Little Girl

    October 21, 2017 by  
    Filed under Uncategorized

    reagandailyvoiceFAIRFIELD, Conn. — ZenRide Spinning Studio and Fairfield residents Cindy and Tim Shanley on Oct. 22 will present the 3rd annual “Biker-Barre” to help fund a cure for hydrocephalus, a brain condition the Shanleys’ little girl lives with every day.

    Located at 869 Post Road, ZenRide will offer a spinning and Bar Method combo class at 3 p.m. After that, participants can stay on for refreshments and a silent auction to benefit the cause.

    All proceeds will go to the all-volunteer Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation.

    The Shanleys support the effort to honor their daughter, Reagan — “Rae Rae” to her friends and family — who has hydrocephalus, and to raise both awareness and research dollars.

    The last two Biker-Barre events have raised almost $20,000 each.

    The event’s success allowed the Shanleys to create the Reagan Sloane Shanley Scholarship for applicants interested in neuroscience and/or engineering who have a special interest in better understanding hydrocephalus, cerebral spinal fluid and the brain.

    A $40 donation reserves a bike for the spinning class.

    To register, visit zen-ride.com/reserve.

    To make a donation, visit active.com/donate/phfzenride2017.

    To learn more about hydrocephalus, visit www.HydrocephalusKids.org.

    As she battles brain disease, Isabella Sacharczyk is on a mission to help others

    October 18, 2017 by  
    Filed under Uncategorized

    WESTHAMPTON MA — “Water on the brain.”

    These are the words that echoed in Denise Sacharczyk’s mind on one of the worst days of her life.

    A doctor called to tell her that her newborn daughter, Isabella, had hydrocephalus, the buildup of fluid in the brain. The 2-month-old had fought for her life from bacterial meningitis and wasn’t expected to live. The infection led to a stroke, which led to the fluid. A deadly amount of pressure has risen inside the child’s skull.

    Isabella was rushed by ambulance to Boston for brain surgery, leaving her mother and father, Kenneth, distraught. Doctors said she would never talk or walk. They questioned whether she would ever see or hear.

    “They told us that we should probably think about putting her in a home for kids like her,” says Sacharczyk. “We chose not to do that, naturally.”

    That was 19 years ago and Isabella Sacharczyk is still here. A freshman at Holyoke Community College, she lives with her family in Westhampton. She also lives with hydrocephalus which never went away. She has undergone 23 brains surgeries, so far, but there is no cure. The fluid is not exactly water, but more like a saline, that collects around the brain. It creates constant pain in her head.

    “She has lived such a life of pain, even just trying to go to school can be really hard,” says her mother.

    Isabella Sacharczyk looks like an ordinary teenage girl, petite with wavy brown hair down to her shoulders. She has exceeded all expectations. She not only walks and talks, she plans to pursue a doctorate in computational biology after she completes her undergraduate studies in computer science. One day she hopes to work alongside researchers in the laboratory at Boston Children’s Hospital to help find a cure for hydrocephalus. In the meantime, she and her mother hold regular fundraisers in conjunction with the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation, an organization based in New Jersey to advance research for children; they have a crafts fair scheduled for Saturday at Eastworks in Easthampton (See box below).

    “I’ve made it my mission to hopefully be part of the team that cures hydrocephalus or finds better treatment,” Isabella says.

    A lifetime of misery

    Hydrocephalus affects more than 1 million Americans in every stage of life, from infants to the elderly. One to two of every 1,000 babies are born with it, making it as common as Down’s syndrome, according the the Hydrocephalus Association, an organization based in Maryland.

    “There are approximately a hundred reasons why someone might develop the condition,” says Dr. Thomas Kaye, Chief of Neurosurgery at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. It most often affects people at the end or beginning of life, coinciding with conditions like birth trauma or dementia.

    Most healthy people’s brains produce two cups of fluid every day that is then absorbed back into the body. When the natural absorption process goes haywire, the typical treatment is surgery to implant a mechanical system including a valve and tubing inside the brain to drain fluid to another part of the body, often to the lining around the stomach or the lungs. But it’s not uncommon for these systems to fail, says Kaye.

    “The (tubing) that they put in is basically a Band-Aid — it’s a mechanical device that has the highest failure rate of all mechanical devices put into a body,” Denise Sacharczyk says.

    Isabella has spent a large percentage of her young life in hospital beds. She’s had thousands of MRIs and CT scans. Sometimes the tubing that drains fluid into other parts of her body will start to deteriorate, catch on scar tissue, and Isabella will start to get sick. Her mind goes foggy, she can’t read, or concentrate. She gets tremors in her legs, her eyes become bloodshot.

    “Bella lives every day with the uncertainty that at any moment her shunts could fail,” Denise Sacharczyk says. They could break, become infected or clogged, which means she is being rushed into surgery — brain surgery — again, she says.

    Isabella recalls one particularly rough year: “I had six surgeries, back to back within months of each other.”

    In ninth grade, at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton, Isabella would regularly take refuge in the nurse’s office, often spending the entire day there. Sometimes her sister, Victoria, 16, would help her with school projects when she wasn’t feeling well. In 10th grade, the pressure inside her skull caused her brain to press onto her spine causing hemorrhaging. After an emergency surgery to push her brain back up she woke up and couldn’t walk. She spent the next 10 months regaining her motor skills. She still has to use a cane. And every day she remains vigilant, not knowing if the drainage system in her brain will fail.

    Moved to action

    Despite all of this, Isabella Sacharczyk has found a bright spot related to her disease — a passion to dedicate her life to finding a cure and better treatments that will help others.

    Four years ago, when the family was looking for support, they connected with the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation. Through the organization they were able to meet other families who have children with hydrocephalus. And now, as Massachusetts state chapter co-directors, the Sacharczyks host regular events to raise awareness and money to find a cure. So far they have held three annual walks at Hampshire Regional High School, with the most recent one in September. They also hold an annual carnival-themed fundraiser in New York state where they have family.

    Last year’s fundraisers raised $12,000 for research at Boston Children’s Hospital. One of the doctors from the hospital attended the walk at Hampshire Regional and invited Isabella to visit the laboratory in Boston to shadow the researchers. She spent last summer observing their work.

    In addition to holding fundraisers, mother and daughter have traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby for more funding to study the disease.

    “We go and we storm Congress with all the folks from across the country,” Denise Sacharczyk says.

    Isabella still has some difficulty with balance and spasticity in her legs, but it’s been two years since the drainage system in her brain has failed, the longest she has gone between operations since her first one at 2 months old.

    Her mother often thinks of the grim prognosis doctors gave her newborn.

    “I think about that all the time — being that scared, brand new mom 19 years ago in the hospital. Hydrocephalus has this huge stigma that your child is not going to do anything, but our children are growing up and doing wonderful things.”

    “She is my miracle girl.”

    Lisa Spear can be reached at Lspear@gazettenet.com

    Shop for a Cure

    A craft and vendor fundraising event to benefit hydrocephalus research.

    When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Where: Eastworks 116 Pleasant St., Easthampton

    What: Vendors will sell handmade crafts like crocheted scarfs and quilted flowers to help fund hydrocephalus research at Boston’s Children’s Hospital.

    Contact: Call 413-246-9725 for more information.

    To learn more about pediatric hydrocephalus, visit www.HydrocephalusKids.org.