Look at 2-year-old Brody Bove, of North Cape May, and you will see a precocious, active little boy. You also will see many scars and stitch marks on his head, the result of four brain surgeries to control an incurable condition called hydrocephalus.
Affecting one in 500 children, hydrocephalus is a condition in which excessive fluid gathers in the brain, abnormally widening the spaces in the brain and placing potentially harmful pressure on brain tissues.
Many of those affected cannot lead full and productive lives - and untreated, hydrocephalus can be fatal.
In May, Brody's mother, Madonna Logue Bove, became the Southern New Jersey/ Philadelphia chapter director of the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation. Her goal is to raise awareness of the condition and to raise funds for medical research.
Brody's story began when he was 18 months old.
"Brody had flulike symptoms. He was vomiting a lot," Logue Bove said. "The next day his balance was off and his eyes were like bulging out of his head. We took him to the local hospital's emergency room, where they treated him for dehydration, which has many of the same symptoms as hydrocephalus. Brody didn't react to the treatment and was admitted. Luckily, someone that was familiar with hydrocephalus was able to examine him and thought there was a need for a CAT scan."
The scan showed fluid on the brain, and Brody's doctor wanted to send him to St. Christopher's Hospital in Philadelphia for immediate surgery. But, he was afraid Brody would not survive the ride.
"I was just freaking out this whole time," Logue Bove said. "I had no idea what hydrocephalus was. I was so scared."
Brody's doctor made some phone calls, and finally found a neurosurgeon in Atlantic City who agreed to perform surgery. An external catheter was put in Brody's brain to drain the fluid and relieve the pressure on his brain. Brody was taken to St. Christopher's, where a shunt was put inside his brain with a tube that runs down his neck to his stomach. The shunt diverts the excess fluid to Brody's stomach, where it can be drained out.
"What makes the condition so bad is that it is a lifelong condition," Logue Bove said. "As the child grows, a new shunt has to be put in. Right now, if all goes well, Brody won't need surgery again until he is 8. But there can be many complications. Brody had to have surgery after an infection, and there can be other complications as well. It's hard because you really never know when something will happen and he will need surgery. Through this whole ordeal, Brody has been a terrific kid. He was so well behaved. He had to be restrained because he tried to pull out the external catheter. But once the shunt was in, he was fine. He just seems to take everything into stride."
Brody's condition may have caused some developmental delays, and Logue Bove is going to have him evaluated soon, she said.
"His eating habits were affected, he won't touch anything soft," Logue Bove said. "And his speech may be a bit delayed, but doctors said he made a remarkable recovery. Other children with hydrocephalus are far worse off. Doctors don't know why Brody developed this condition, since he didn't have it from birth. Children who do have it from birth sometimes have brains that aren't fully developed and have severe problems. Others get the condition from a brain hemorrhage or tumor."
Logue Bove got in touch with the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation, and when she learned they needed a director for southern New Jersey, she didn't hesitate to volunteer for the position.
"There is an extreme lack of awareness, and my goal is to increase knowledge and raise money to help find a cure. I hope to be able to provide support and hope to parents and families dealing with similar situations. There have been no advancements in treatment since the 1960s for this condition, and I hope to help change that. I plan to start some local fundraisers in September."
Contact Debra Rech:
To learn more
For more information on the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation, call 732-634-1283, email info@HydrocephalusKids.org, see HydrocephalusKids.org or email Madonna Logue Bove at Madonna@HydrocephalusKids.org.