Saturday 25 June 2016

James & The Giant Peach

“I crave the tasty tentacles of octopi for tea/I like hot dogs, but I love hot frogs, and surely you'll agree/A plate of soil with engine oil is a super recipe. I hardy need to mention that it's practically free!”
I watched 'The Marvellous World of Roald Dahl' on BBC TV and remembered that 'James and the Giant Peach', which he wrote as a bedtime story for his children was a favourite with mine. There were other links. When Dahl and his wife Patricia's son Theo was four months old a NYC cab hit his pram. He suffered brain damage and developed hydrocephalus. Without effective treatment, severe, damage to the brain will occur. His early treatment in the US had been with the type of valve developed by John Holter, a ventricle-to-atrium shunt system But it kept blocking, and every time it did so, the pressure of water inside his head rose to dangerously high levels. In 1961 the Dahl's returned to England and Theo's care was taken over by neuro-surgeon Kenneth Till at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. He, Dahl and Stanley Wade, a hydraulic engineer friend of Dahl's, set about designing a new valve. The WDT valve was popular for a while in the UK, but it offered too little resistance to flow and patients could experience overdrainage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Today there are more than 40 different valve systems available, including variations on the original Holter valve - and the name itself is still in everyday use. Kenneth Till operated twice on my son Ben at Great Ormond street after he developed post-meningitic hydrocephalus and needed a shunt. I still remember staff there telling my wife and I that we must not worry, that Ben was in safe hands. He was and today, in his 40s, is living an active and happy life. You can read more about all this in 'Left Field'.

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