One day, in 1955, a man changed our world. One man who desperately loved his son, embarked on a race against time to save his life. This man, John Holter, had a dream, a vision of an answer to his son's life threatening condition, and he took that dream in both hands to shape it and make it real. This one man, who now has saved thousands upon thousands of children, but was not able to save his own. Instead of succumbing to grief and despair, he used his emotions to fuel his search for the answer. And in 1956 the first John Holter shunt was installed into a child, successfully treating his hydrocephalus. It is estimated that 15,000 valves based on Holter’s design are installed every year in the United States alone. There are over 36,000 shunt surgeries per year in the U.S. Before Holter's invention, the parents of these 36,000 children, would be getting ready to watch their children die. John Holter was not a doctor. He was trained as an engineer and worked as a tech in a hydraulics factory.
|Here is John Holter working, with his wife holding their son Casey.|
This month, September, is hydrocephalus awarness month. To clarify, hydrocephalus is a condition where the cerebral spinal fluid that is produced in the ventricles of the brain does not drain back down into the spine, thus putting fatal pressure on the brain and the skull of the victim. It is an incurable, life threatening condition, and one in every 500 babies is born with it. What John Holter did, was create a pump and valve system that when installed into the ventricles of the brain, would drain off the excess CSF into other parts of the body such as the abdominal cavity or the chambers of the heart. The fluid then would be absorbed by the body and disposed off like another waste. Here is a diagram of the shunt that goes into the heart. Leo's tube goes lower into his abdomen.
To this man, who died in 2003, and spent his whole life dedicated to hydrocephalus, I raise my glass. To a true hero, a simple man like any other, and one who loved so deeply and desperately, and who refused to give up. I salute you! You have given me the miracle of my son's life.
|This is the face of terminal hydrocephalus before shunting.|
|Because of John Holter, this is the face of hydrocephalus!|