When I was a child, seeing children with unusually large heads wasn't exactly common, but it happened enough that I was aware of hydrocephalus, which was often called "water on the brain". In those days, hydrocephalus was difficult to treat and often meant that the child in question was severely impaired and had a shortened life span. These children often experienced severe seizures and other problems due to the collection of fluid around their brains.
Today, the children in this country are far luckier. While they still have issues that require brain surgery to place a shunt, and may have to have multiple revisions of the shunt--or even emergency surgery if the shunt doesn't stay open--they are typically able to live full and healthy lives. They are treated early in their lives and that treatment means everything to them and their family.
Pediatric care in other countries are not always so lucky, access to a pediatric neurosurgeon is not a referral away. There are times when these children go untreated and develop the enlarged head that only those of us with more than a few decades under our belts remember.
Roona Begum was born in India, without the access to healthcare that we enjoy in this country, as her parents could not afford treatment. Before she was one year of age her head circumference had swelled to 94 centimeters, nearly double that of the average one year old baby. Photos of Roona were taken by a photographer and quickly found international attention, leading two Norwegian college students, Jonas Borchgrevink and Nathalie Krantz, so start an internet fundraiser. Eventually, over $50,000 were raised and surgeons in New Delhi offered treatment free of charge.
Surgeons say that Ronna's case was one of the most complex they have ever done, but surgeon Dr. Sandeep Vaishya was confident, saying the surgery went well.