As a person living with Hydrocephalus, be it yourself or someone close to you affected by this condition, it’s easy enough to understand the medical terminology. Well, at least better than anyone who is just an “acquaintance” of this condition.
I remember when I was first diagnosed and heard the word Hydrocephalus. It was a struggle to even pronounce, much less spell it. I slowly learnt the various terminology and in time, from way too many Google searches (Yes, I’m a self-confessed Googler especially since I believe knowing my opponent is the best defense I have even if the odds are stacked against me from time to time), I found it easy enough to navigate my way around the lingo.
I’m sure it can be very daunting and overwhelming once a Neurologist/Neurosurgeon starts throwing terminology around that you simply can’t wrap your brain around. Cerebrospinal fluid, lumbar puncture, aqueductal stenosis, slit ventricles are just a few which come to mind. However, it’s like anything else in life, the more you use it and the more you hear it, it becomes second nature. If there’s one thing that I appreciate though, it’s the fact that most of it can be broken down into acronyms. But, they can lead to some amusing misunderstandings. For example, in South Africa, there’s a TV channel called eTV. The alternative treatment to a shunt is called an Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy (ETV). When explaining my condition and subsequent treatment to someone from South Africa, it’s easy enough to see how they can confuse the two. Similarly, only someone affected by the condition (or those carers who make it their life’s mission to understand the terminology), will truly understand. This is especially true when you suspect something is wrong and ask a question in the support groups. Our symptoms might differ but there are very close similarities and events which guide us into knowing when the alarm bells need to be raised.
I know when someone explains something to me that I don’t necessarily understand or have an interest in, the words just fly over my head. As an example, my husband and boys play cricket, a game that doesn’t interest me in the least. I love watching my sons play but getting involved in the analysis discussion after a game between them and their dad is something I avoid. I do this not because I’m not interested but simply because I don’t understand and it just seems too hard. LBW, chipping, slow balls and spinners are just a few things I’ve heard them talk about. By the same token, I know they’ve heard me talk about a shunt and an ETV but they don’t necessarily understand how it all fits together, what it’s for, why certain things happen or what the risks are.
Despite my telling them that I am not cured, they don’t necessarily understand it that way, because “I look fine“. Anyone with Hydrocephalus would probably go “Cured..? Pfft! What are you smoking? Gimme some of that…”
Things like scar tissue, which has recently been mentioned in my medical treatment, is something that I have heard of sometimes blocking a shunt, therefore, raising the need for a revision. But, I’ve never really taken notice of it because it didn’t affect me in that way, you could say it was something I tossed aside once my shunt was replaced by my ETV. Though, I now understand that scar tissue can cause my ETV to fail as well (There’s just no winning is there?).
I think it’s probably more difficult for someone else (an outsider) to understand the importance of knowing the terminology associated with a condition like Hydrocephalus. Once you’re diagnosed, with any condition for that matter, you become fully invested and own it. It becomes a part of you…
This is where I think the support groups are a great way of feeling like you’re not alone and you have people who can share in your fears, the success of passing a milestone (week, month, year of no headache or surgery) or just a sense of belonging. If there’s one thing I’d love to do (it’s on my bucket list), it’s to attend one of the Hydrocephalus conferences as well as walks to raise awareness and money to aid research into a cure. Being physically in the presence of others just like me and to feel like I’m more than just a surviving statistic.
I love the connections I’ve already made because of it and, if you’re one of them, thank you for being there. This condition is a lonely one but it doesn’t have to be. I wish more than anything that it didn’t exist but it does and, having life deal me this hand at age 29, I’m not going to ask “Why me?”
I’ll just be thankful that I at least have people who understand the language I’m speaking even when no one else does ??