Parker Calkins, photoIn their words

Ashley Kayser
Marion, Iowa

During the last ultrasound of my first pregnancy at 39 weeks the nurse noticed that the ventricles in my son’s brain were enlarged. I was sent to a Cedar Rapids hospital to be induced that day.

My son, Parker, was born the next day, on April 12, 2014, at 3:07 p.m., weighing 7 pounds, 6 ounces. His care team did an ultrasound of his head and confirmed his ventricles were enlarged. The next day we were transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where doctors could do an MRI. The following day, when Parker was 3 days old, Dr. (Saul) Wilson, a pediatric neurosurgeon, confirmed my son’s diagnosis of congenital hydrocephalus.

Doctors determined Parker’s condition was not severe enough for any intervention and we were sent home with a follow-up scheduled for a couple months out.

When we came back to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital for our son’s follow-up, he had another MRI.

When we got the results back we had discovered my son’s ventricles had doubled in size since birth. The enlargement of these ventricles causes the brain to swell, which can be dangerous if not treated. At this point Dr. Wilson suggested my son get a shunt.

At 4 months old my son underwent surgery to place a VP shunt within his brain. This shunt allows the extra cerebrospinal fluid that was causing the swelling to be moved through a catheter into his abdominal cavity. The surgery was four hours long and the scariest moment in my entire life, especially as a new mother.

After healing Parker seemed so much happier and relaxed; before he would spend a lot of time crying which I believe was because he was in pain from the swelling in his head.

Shunt placement in anyone under the age of 2 has a 50 percent infection rate so we had to watch him closely for any signs of infection or malfunction but so far (he is now 3, almost 4) he has not had any issues at all! He is in preschool and loves to learn and is very social. He will talk to and make friends with anyone who will stop to talk to him. He loves art and sports and recently just became a big brother! Right now he is very into learning about the human body and wants to be a doctor when he's older! There is no evidence at all that he went through brain surgery at such a young age besides two bumps on his head and a scar on his belly. He now only needs check-ups every 18 months because he is thriving so well.

Unfortunately, though, shunts have the highest failure rate of any medically implanted device and he will more than likely need more surgeries in the future – but we are hoping that is a long, long time from now!

UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital was so welcoming and comforting for such a scary time. They made us feel at home and well-informed. They helped me learn all about my son’s condition and his new shunt and made me feel confident in taking him home and caring for him after we left.

Related Medical Services