Roona Begum: Indian Girl With Head Swelling Disorder Has Surgery; What Is Hydrocephalus? [PHOTO]

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 15, 2013 7:39 PM EDT

Roona Begum
Roona Begum, an 18-month-old toddler from India with sever hydrocephalus, received life-saving surgery courtesy of the Fortis Foundation. (Photo: RoonaBegum.org / TripuraIndia)

An Indian toddler whose head was swollen to a massive size has received life-saving surgery.

Roona Begum, an 18-month-old girl from the rural village of Agartala, suffers from a rare condition called hydrocephalus ("water on the brain"). Begum comes from a poverty-stricken family who could not afford the surgery, but after her story appeared in a number of publications, several organizations pitched in to help. The Fortis Foundation flew Begum and her family to a town near Delhi, where Begum received free surgery from India's largest private hospital.

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Following the surgery, which doctors said went "perfectly," Begum's head circumference was reduced from a gigantic 37 inches to 29 inches.

Doctors say that Begum, at 18 months, has already lived past the life expectancy of those with the head-swelling condition. Most cases don't live more than one year.

"I was surprised when I saw the baby for the first time. Even though I had seen her pictures, I wasn't expecting the head to be so big," said Dr. Sandeep Vaishya, who is treating Begum at Fortis Memorial Research Institute. "Her head measures 94 cm, in similar cases the average measurement is around 50-60 cm."

Vaishya also said that Begum's head is swollen so much that she is unable to close her eyes, and that an ophthalmologist is looking into it.

"We are hopeful that she will make a complete recovery," Vaishya said. "The challenge is to drain her brain fluid in a gradual manner, so as the brain gets used to it."

According to the National Institue of Health, hydrocephalus is a condition where cerebrospinal fluid, a clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, builds up so much that it cannot drain from the brain. The excess fluid widens spaces in the brain called ventricles, which can create harmful pressure on brain tissue.

Begum's father, Abdul, expressed gratitude to those who had saved his daughter's life. "I cannot find work every day," the 19-year-old laborer said. "It's hard enough to earn for food, so her treatment would have been impossible had it not been for the press and hospital people who have helped us."

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