By Megan Davis, UTC University Relations Intern

Hydrocephalus, seen mostly in children and infants, is a medical condition that occurs when there is an excess of cerebrospinal fluid in the cavities of the brain. Some infants are diagnosed while they are still in the womb, which was the case for the daughter of Chara Crowley McLaughen, a UTC alumna. Ema was diagnosed three weeks before she was born.

McLaughen’s daughter was diagnosed with Dandy-Walker Syndrome, which is the cause of hydrocephalus. She was treated at five months with surgery to implant a shunt in her brain. Around the 10-month mark, Ema began to regress in her development. She stopped walking, started to lose weight, and was sick all the time. After six weeks of searching for a cause, McLaughen and her husband discovered that their daughter’s shunt was no longer working and she would have to undergo surgery again to have the shunt replaced. This one lasted six months, but it too had to be replaced. She had the third shunt inserted when she was 18-months-old and hasn’t needed another surgery since.

This experience motivated McLaughen to help other families who are affected by this condition. She became familiar with the Hydrocephalus Association (HA).

With help from HA, McLaughen established a Hydrocephalus Walk in 2011. She began soliciting donations and asked family to help organize the Walk. This cause is close to McLaughen’s heart. She knows it is important to help others who have been affected by this condition.

“The reason why we raise money for this cause is that we, as well as any other family affected by hydrocephalus, are just watching and waiting for the next time the shunt quits working,” McLaughen said.

McLaughen considers the WALK program a success.

“I feel that any funds raised towards this cause are a success, as all of our funds raised in the WALK program go towards research for better treatments and possibly a cure for hydrocephalus,” McLaughen said.

The 2nd Annual Greater Chattanooga Hydrocephalus Association WALK 2012 will take place at Coolidge Park on Saturday, October 27. This 5K WALK raises money for research to find alternative treatments for hydrocephalus. Check-in begins at 9:30 a.m. You can find more information and register at http://walk4hydro.kintera.org/Chattanooga.

McLaughen encourages people to be aware of hydrocephalus. Many children are born with it and adults are often misdiagnosed with diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s because of the lack of awareness of this condition. No one knows what causes it and there is no cure, but research is ongoing to discover more about this condition.

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