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Samantha’s journey with the hospital has spanned her whole life, and both sites of the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Before she was born 18 years ago, doctors discovered through an ultrasound that she had a cyst on the back of her brain, a condition known as hydrocephalus. When she was born, geneticists from Alberta Children’s Hospital were brought over to the Foothills to meet her. They diagnosed her with a genetic disorder called Pfeiffer Syndrome, which is characterized by skull bones fusing prematurely, preventing the skull from growing normally. It also affects the bones in the hands and feet. The syndrome also compromised her trachea so affected her breathing as well. She spent weeks in the ICU at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and because her trachea was compromised, the decision was made to give her a trach. The cyst didn’t become a major concern until she was one year old, so at that time, neurosurgeons put a shunt on her brain to drain the spinal fluid from the cyst. While grateful for the lifesaving device, over the years, the shunt began to cause her problems. It caused infections, contributed to hearing loss when Samantha was three years old, and brought on debilitating headaches. She was miserable. Her Mom says she was surviving, not living.
Thankfully, just two weeks shy of her 18th birthday, Dr. Walter Hader approached her parents with a new plan for Samantha. Because of her age, she was a candidate for a brain surgery that would free her of relying on a shunt for her spinal fluid drainage. Dr. Hader would create a hole in her third ventricle in her brain for the fluid to drain through. They agreed to go for it and had surgery in October. After the surgery, Samantha was a whole new young woman. She was happier and brighter, with more energy and free of headaches that had become her norm. (So, Dr. Hader basically created a teenager who was no longer moody! ) She will next visit the hospital to have facial and dental surgery to help open up her airway and improve her breathing.
Samantha’s family are beyond grateful for her skilled neurosurgery team who freed her from a life of misery and head pain with an innovative brain surgery to treat her hydrocephalus. Samantha is now happy and enjoying life as a teenager and looking forward to graduating this year.