It was Christmas 1956, and John and Mary Holter had just been given tragic news – their new born son was Hydrocephalic, a condition in which the secretions of the fluids within the skull increase out of control putting pressure on his tiny brain. The condition is more commonly know as “Water on The Brain”. Said John,”…we didn’t think it could happen to our baby but it did, it took several months for it to materialize and he went through a lot of this process of tapping and draining his head each day, removing the excess fluid pressure and I was terribly upset about that and wanted to do something that would relieve the problem…” Medical technology at the time offered little hope to the child. John, an engineer by trade was determined to save his son’s life. “… here it was my own baby, terribly sick, and he wouldn’t live very long if I didn’t do something. Being an engineer, I understood the hydrodynamics of it pretty well after they explained the basics, it took me three weeks to find the proper materials…” John worked feverishly day and night until he developed the first implantable valve for the treatment of Hydrocephalus, saving the lives of his son and countless others.
Today this method of using a pressure sensitive valve to shunt, or drain off excess Cerebral Spinal Fluid has become the standard practice in helping people with hydrocephalus lead more normal lives. Phoenix Biomedical, now known as Vygon Neuro, the company founded and inspired by John Holter’s dedication to treating people with Hydrocephalus continues to develop break through technologies to help people especially children, cope with the disease. The company, a recognized industry leader, has developed new valves that regulate the flow of Cerebral Spinal Fluid differently then traditional valves. The problem with the valves typically used in shunts to treat hydrocephalus is they can cause over or under drainage based on the heads relative body position. The new valves regulate CSF in much the same way as the body does, and virtually eliminate the problems of over-drainage and under-drainage, that have plagued more traditional valves. This new valve called the Diamond Valve, has been used successfully to treat water on the brain by Dr. Evan Zeiger Chief of Neurosurgery at Alabama’s Carraway Medical Center, says Dr. Zeiger, “…we are quite encouraged and excited about new valves that function in a more physiological fashion…” A published study in Neurosurgery concluded: The Diamond Valve demonstrated the intended variable resistance, which increased as the pressure increased. This property may help it limit over-drainage related to body posture as well as nocturnal vasogenic waves. Flow through the valve stabilizes within a wide range, which may contribute to the prevention of excessive pressure buildup after implantation. So the technology originally developed by one desperate father in his garage, continues to evolve and help many people with hydrocephalus or water on the brain live productive lives.
Where do medical advance come from? Sometimes they can come from the most unlikely sources. A break through can take the vision of great men of science and years of research, or it can take something as simple as the love and devotion of one father for his child, to bring hope and life to countless families and their children.