The father of a new hydrocephalus patient shares his story…

We recently met Tom Coury, a rehabilitation physician, triathlete, and recent father to a daughter with hydrocephalus.  His daughter Amelia received her first shunt at 17 days old, and Tom was kind enough to reach out and share their story.  He’ll also be swimming Alcatraz with us this summer!

We are so touched and grateful to have the Coury’s as part of the Team Hydro family. Their story, still just beginning, already captures so much of the uncertainty that comes with a diagnosis of Hydrocephalus. By the same token, the strength, optimism, and indefatigable resolve of Amelia’s parents speak to the very best of humanity.  Taken together, this uncertainty and this resolve embody exactly why we do what we do at Team Hydro.

We love you, Coury’s!  Go get ’em, Amelia.  We’re cheering for you.


Amelia’s Daddy’s Log

6/18/2017 – I’m taking a shower, and Heidi tells me the best Father’s Day news I’ve ever received.  She is pregnant again.  This will be Baby #6.  See, we have a baby around every 3 years.  We’ve had a baby in 2003, ‘06, ‘09, ‘12, ‘15, and now 2018.  The birth order so far is B – B – G – G – B.  I ask Heidi to keep the sex of the baby from me.  We had always known prior to birth, but I had never been surprised.  She was good to keep the surprise from me right up until the birth.

12/7/2017 – Heidi had her second ultrasound.  For background, our last two births have been at TMC Birthing Center with nurse midwives.  We’ve found that the birthing center provides a good balance between over- and under- medicalizing the process of childbirth.  Our last baby came out at 10 lbs 2.5 oz.  Heidi did that at the birthing center without an epidural. 

The initial ultrasound this pregnancy showed everything as normal.  But due to her age (38), the midwives recommended an additional ultrasound.  This second one was done at 28 weeks.  This time, the measurement for the lateral ventricles was 10.3mm (upper limit of normal is 10mm).  This put the baby in the category of ventriculomegaly. 

I went into a small panic.  My head began to race with thoughts of surgery after surgery after surgery, and shunt after shunt after shunt.  Thoughts of infections, and explants, and wounds.  I’m a physician who specializes in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R or physiatry) and I have taken care of several patients over the years with shunts.  The patients I see never seem to do well.  The shunts are continually failing, and the patients seem to be in the hospital multiple times a year.  One of my patients has over 20 no-shows to her clinic appointments with me, the vast majority of which are due to her being in the ER or hospital.  My role in her care is primarily pain management.

1/10/2018 – Another ultrasound is taken, showing the ventricle size at 10.3mm (no change).  I take a deep breath in.  Perhaps this is one of those abnormalities that are never found unless you look for them.  People walk around all the time with unusual this or that.  Maybe the ventriculomegaly will self-correct.  In fact, didn’t I read somewhere that enlarged head circumference is possibly a weak marker for autism?  We already have two kids on the autistic spectrum.  Yep.  This is, as a pediatric neurologist once said about my oldest, while looking directly at me, Familial Macrocephaly. 

2/7/2018 – Anther ultrasound is taken.  The ventricle measurement has increased significantly.  This is no longer ventriculomegaly; this is hydrocephalus.  At the time of the ultrasound, the technician had the Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist do a quick consult.  She recommended we get in with “neuro” soon after the birth (Was that neurology or neurosurgery?  Somehow my brain skipped neurology and went straight to surgery.)  That evening, I spoke with the MFM specialist for about an hour about hydrocephalus, what to expect, and where to go from here.  At this point, we were no longer in the realm of the birthing center.  We would be delivering at TMC at 39 weeks.

2/19 – I cleared my schedule expecting her induction and delivery to go quickly.  What I didn’t expect was that TMC was so busy there was no room for us at the inn.  We were initially supposed to be called at 5:30 in the morning to come in.  We got the call at about 10:30 that night.  The induction was started just before midnight. 

2/20 – I enjoy the birthing center experience, but that’s a lot more work for me.  At the hospital, she gets an IV, an epidural; we turn on some TV, kick back, and wait for the magic to happen.  We asked for the Neonatologist to do a consult.  Obviously the NICU was pretty busy, because he didn’t come around until about noon.  He again went over hydrocephalus, what to expect, etc.  He left, and the nurse midwife checked Heidi again.  She saw the baby’s head, so she figured it’s time to push.  The plan was to have the NICU on hand in case there was any distress.  Heidi gave about 4 good pushes in a row, and then took a deep breath, ready to start the hard labor.  That’s when the midwife handed her a 7lb 11oz beautiful baby girl (with a big head).  The baby was just fine.  She went straight to mom.  The NICU nurses looked confused and asked, “Why are we here?”  We excitedly shared the news with the rest of our family and friends that Amelia Margaret Coury was here, and she was rock solid stable. 

2/22 – Heidi and Amelia got to go home.  Prior to discharge, Amelia had a post-natal brain ultrasound.  I totally geeked out, being able to see so many brain structures that are normally only visible with an MRI.  (Baby skulls are not hard bone yet, so the ultrasound can peer down pretty far, though not as far as MRI.)  Her scan showed a Grade 1 intraventricular hemorrhage (bleed) on one side and a Grade 2 hemorrhage on the other.  We were all a bit puzzled, as IVH is normally a complication of premature birth.  But Amelia was a full-term, good sized baby.  The plan was to go home and follow up with her pediatrician, and get a referral for pediatric neurology.

2/26 – Her pediatrician, Dr. Carl Roberts, checked her out and felt she looked good.  He made the referral to pediatric neurology and ordered a follow-up ultrasound.

3/5 – The follow-up ultrasound showed her ventricles had enlarged again.  Dr. Roberts gave us the results on the phone. 

3/6 – Her fontanelles began to bulge.  It looked like a goose egg on the top of her head, like when you smack your head on something hard.  Dr. Roberts made the call to Phoenix Children’s Hospital neurosurgery team, which is the pediatric division of Barrows Neurologic Institute. 

3/7 – Heidi and Amelia (along with my parents) got to meet Dr. Taryn Bragg for the first time.  Amelia’s head circumference had not changed much from Dr. Roberts’ visit.  She ordered an MRI and told Heidi to plan on surgery the following week.  I spoke with Dr. Bragg for about an hour that evening.  Amelia’s presentation was not clear.  She had the hydrocephalus, but she also had a very large posterior cyst, which appeared to be communicating with the ventricles.  This cyst could be putting pressure on the posterior brain structures (cerebellum and brainstem).  She told us to watch for signs, such as sun setting eyes, projectile vomiting, or lethargy.  I cleared my schedule for the following week. 

3/9 – I came home from work.  This was a Friday afternoon.  I held Amelia in my arms and looked in her eyes.  Something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t quite explain it.  She had disconjugate gauze (the eyes look in different directions), but in brand new babies, this can be normal.  However, it also could be due to compression on the parts of the brain that control the muscles of the eye.  I took some videos to send to Dr. Bragg.  Later, Heidi was changing Amelia’s diaper, when her eyes started to set.  Heidi got scared.  We immediately dropped our plans for the evening and headed straight to Phoenix Children’s. 

3/10 – Amelia had her VP (ventriculoperitoneal) shunt placed.  Dr. Bragg elected to place a nonprogrammable, medium pressure shunt made by Medtronic.  The surgery went well.  We got to visit with Amelia while she recovered in the PACU and awaited a bed in the hospital.  Her bandage wasn’t sticking to her head, so Dr. Bragg had fashioned a big, beautiful coban bow for her.  Her vitals looked good and she was resting. 

As part of the normal post-surgical protocol, at one point the nurse checked her eyes for a pupillary reflex.  When you shine a light into one eye, you should see both that eye and the other eye constrict to adjust for the light.  Amelia’s eyes didn’t respond.  At all.  Another nurse came by to check, and they didn’t respond.  I checked them myself, and they didn’t respond.  The nurse called Dr. Bragg who ordered a STAT CT of her head.  The CT was normal.  We had no idea why her eyes were not responding. 

She was taken to the NICU.  This day took the lead as the scariest day of my life as a father, just barely passing that time Heidi was in my truck with my two baby boys and was hit by a car.  I waited in the ER for 45 minutes for the ambulance that day, and was meticulously picking out pieces of glass from their hair in the bath that night.  This day was scarier than that day. 

The NICU staff was great.  In fact, the whole staff at PCH was great.  Pediatric hospitals are magical places, where everybody is there because they want to be there.  From techs, to nurses, to docs, to staff, there wasn’t a grumpy face in the place. 

Heidi and I hadn’t slept more than a few hours the night before surgery.  She was put in contact with Ronald McDonald house so we could take turns getting some shut-eye.  I went off to dinner at the cafeteria not knowing what we were dealing with.  Was there permanent brain damage?  Was this just a delayed response to anesthesia?  Was Amelia blind?  I started to doubt my memory of her vision.  I had only known her for 17 days, but maybe I was wrong to think Amelia was looking at us.  I pulled out the videos I took of her the day before.  No, in fact, Amelia was looking right at me as I held her.  Her eyes constricted and dilated with the light as I moved.  Her eyes were working, less than 24 hours prior.  Something had had happened. 

I wanted to do something for Amelia.  I wanted to help in some way.  I felt helpless.  Sure, I could be a good father.  We would take good care of her, no matter what the situation would be.  If we had a blind child, then we would deal with that.  But maybe there was something else I could do.  Maybe I could give back in some way.  One of my hobbies is racing triathlons.  Maybe I could put together a race team, like they do for breast cancer and blood cancers.  I even thought of a great name – Team Hydro.  Excitedly, I searched for that name, and discovered that such an organization already esisted.  And this wasn’t some flash-in-the-pan charity.  Their funding had already yielded legitimate bench (basic science) and translational (lab-to-clinic) research. 

Heidi went to Ronald McDonald house first.  Fortunately, she had pumped plenty of breastmilk to get through the evening.  Unfortunately, she left the breast pump at the hospital, so I knew she would be back in the middle of the night. 

3/11 — I’m fuzzy on the details (sleep deprivation will do that), but at some point in the middle of the night, Amelia’s eyes started to respond.  It was a weak response initially, but it was there.  Heidi came back around 2 AM and we switched out.  By the time I got back to the hospital around 6, her eyes were back to normal.  We still don’t know what happened or why. But we were grateful they were back.  As Heidi drove part of the way home, I sent a text to Dr. Bragg thanking her for her work.  She responded kindly, and added, “drive safely”.  It occurred to me that relative to the drive between Phoenix and Tucson, a VP shunt placement is a pretty safe procedure. 

3/20 – Dr. Roberts evaluated Amelia and gave her an all-good bill of health. 

3/22 – Follow-up with Dr. Bragg and a repeat MRI in Phoenix.  The posterior cyst membrane appeared to be descending along the brainstem.  She recommended watching clinically and follow-up in a month.

3/24 – Her fontanelle appeared to be bulging again.  We worried about shunt failure.  Dr. Bragg recommended keeping her head upright.

3/30 – Amelia gave her mom some projectile vomiting, exorcist-style.  Heidi was rightly concerned.  We now noticed that her fontanelle was quite sunken, and that the skull bones were even overlapping a bit. I was worried about over shunting. Dr. Bragg recommended keeping her head lying flat.

4/2 – Amelia gave her mom another projectile vomit. 

4/3 – One more episode of vomiting, and Heidi took Amelia to Dr. Roberts office.  Dr. Roberts checked her over for non-neurologic sources, and felt that all was fine. It must be coming from her neurologic situation.

4/4 – Amelia vomited again.  Heidi called Dr. Roberts, who promptly called Dr. Bragg.  I went to work on Friday, 4/6, fully expecting that Amelia would have her first revision the next day.

4/6 – Heidi took Amelia up to PCH for a new MRI and a visit with Dr. Bragg.  The imaging looked good.  No surgery was recommended, and follow-up made for one month. 

At this point, there are more questions than answers.  Why are Amelia’s fontanelles shifting so quickly with positional changes, yet the MRI does not show a dramatic change?  Will she need a revision before her fontanelles close at 18 months?  Why did her eyes not respond, and should we be concerned about anesthesia in the future?  And why does she have hydrocephalus in the first place?  We haven’t yet seen a pediatric neurologist, but Heidi made an appointment with one.  Dr. Bragg mentioned that this might be something called a Dandy-Walker variant, which is probably defect in neural tube formation. 

4/7 – I got to meet Sam and Peter Finlayson on a conference call today.   Together, they formed Team Hydro, and their family sits on the Hydrocephalus Association board.  I’m excited to have these guys to lean on, (and to give back to as well) as we continue this journey. 

Amelia is developing well.  She looks at her daddy and mama, and is beginning to coo.  She has the beginnings of a social smile.  She can occasionally bring her hands to her mouth to suck on her fists.  Her pupils react and accommodate well to light.  She has other normal baby issues – reflux, cluster feeding, wanting to be held all the time, that the rest of our kids have been through.  It’s 10:40 PM.

I’m going to go give all of my kids a kiss goodnight. 



Team Hydro Completes 5th Annual Boston Harbor Swim!

The Fog over the harbor was thick as the day began, but even gray skies could not dampen the spirits of our Team Hydro swimmers and volunteers who gathered in Boston on Saturday for another great Harbor Swim! 

Team Hydro’s enthusiasm made the day brighter for all present at the swim thanks to volunteers who provided crucial event help — not only on land with event registration but also out on the water as kayak guides for swimmers! With the fog so thick one could not see across the channel, much less across the harbor, our volunteers’ role became more crucial than ever! 

In fact, as the start time approached, the dense fog remained so thick and visibility so poor, it was clear that crossing the Harbor would jeopardize swimmer safety, the Coast Guard quickly approved a unique and scenic course change which took swimmers on an exciting and scenic tour of Boston waterway off the Bay!  Kayakers lined the new course and swimmers raced under historic bridges and past some iconic Boston sights including the Boston Tea Party Ship, the Children’s Museum and Pop Art Milk bottle, all the way to South Stations mid-river Pyramid before heading back to the finish at beautiful Rowes Wharf and Courthouse!  

With their 50 bright orange caps setting them apart from the rest of the field, Team Hydro swimmers raised awareness for hydrocephalus even as they swam! 

All swimmers completed the event, with Team Hydro swimmers inspiring hundreds of spectators gathered all along the shore with their perseverance and teamsmanship!  

As is typical for a Team Hydro event, our group was made up of people from a variety of backgrounds some connected to hydrocephalus and others just generous people who heard about the cause and found a way to support it!  Our ranks included students from Harvard Medical School and MIT, a CSF researcher from Children’s Hospital, doctors and researchers from Harvard and surrounding hospitals, a father of a hydrocephalus patient from Canada, grandparents of a patient from Georgia, and lots of friends and family!!  Stories were shared and all participants went away armed with even more resolve to fight for additional hydrocephalus research!   

We could not be more grateful for EVERY Team Hydro swimmer, on land support, on the water volunteer and donor!  Thanks for making the 2017 Boston Harbor swim a resounding success!  Most importantly, thank YOU for helping us ensure that Hydrocephalus research will continue for the 1 million people seeking to live with this difficult condition!

Go Team Hydro!  Find a Cure!!

Team Hydro Attempts FIFTH Boston Harbor Crossing on September 17th!

Team Hydro can’t wait to see all our Swimmers and On-land Supporters on Sunday as we make our 5th Annual crossing of the Boston Harbor in support of Hydrocephalus!!
Note: VOLUNTEERS STILL NEEDED for this race.  If anyone is interested in volunteering (for free) please sign up HERE and check the join team hydro box.  Volunteering can be setup on land or kayaking with the swimmers in the water!  Raise organizers will donate to our cause for your efforts!


Arriving for the Swim:

Parking and check-in will be at the finish line by the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse, from 6:50-7:50am.  Once you arrive and check-in, look for a Team Hydro banner!  We will provide a secure place for you to keep your stuff during the swim.  Around 7:30am, we will take a group picture and all head across on together on the water taxi.  We will also provide you with a special team hydro wrist band, cap, and the story of a patient with hydrocephalus!
The Wrist Band
You’ll be given a band which bears the name of a person who is living with or has passed away from hydrocephalus.  It allows you to dedicate your swim to someone who knows first hand the challenges hydrocephalus can bring to the lives of patients and families with the condition.  You’ll also get the chance to read a brief personal story of the person it honors.  Every year we are told by those who wear the bands and read the stories that they are inspired to swim faster than ever as a result!
The Cap
Officially sanctioned by the Sharkfest organizers, these special edition caps will help you stand out to family and friends–and other swimmers–as a member of Team Hydro.  By wearing the cap, you will also help raise awareness for this important cause!
Don’t forget to make a fundraising page if you haven’t yet at  As always, Team Hydro underwrites all our own costs, so 100% of money raised goes to research (unlike, unfortunately, the Sharkfest registration fees that go to the race organizers).  In case it helps, here is a template for a possible letter to send to your friends!
We are so grateful for your participation in this swim that means so much to us.
Thank you so much, and Go Team Hydro!
The Finlayson Family

Team Hydro proud to sponsor Dr. Yan Ding with 2017 Innovator Award

Hydrocephalus is a disease with a desperate need for a cure — the condition affects more than one million Americans, costs the U.S. more than $1 billion per year, and though it afflicts people of all ages, has long maintained its infamous position as the number one cause of neurosurgery in children.

Nevertheless, hydrocephalus treatment hasn’t seen a major innovation in more than 60 years. The most common treatment (a neurosurgically implanted “shunt” device) has seen more than 200 patented modifications since the 1960s, none of which has ever been shown to improve clinical outcomes.  Even now, devices fail up to 50% of the time within two years!  Clearly, we are in need of a fundamentally new approach to treatment for this disease. To this end, Team Hydro is committed to supporting efforts with promise to cure this illness through radically innovative approaches to therapies.

And it’s hard to be much more innovative than Dr. Yan Ding, PhD!

Dr. Ding is the recipient of a 2017 Innovator Research Grant, sponsored by Team Hydro in conjunction with the Hydrocephalus Association.

Dr. Ding’s research is exploring a component of the human neurological system that wasn’t even known to exist until 2014. This recently discovered system, known as the glymphatic system, mediates the absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF, a.k.a. the “hydro” that builds up in hydrocephalus), and as such is an extremely exciting area for those of us interested in hydrocephalus.

Dr. Ding was kind enough to chat with us recently about her work.  Among other things, she explained why it is that the glymphatic system is particularly promising in infants who (like Kate, Team Hydro’s original inspiration) develop hydrocephalus after “brain bleeds” called germinal matrix hemorrhages:

In adults, CSF is mainly reabsorbed through [microscopic vessels called] the subarachnoid villi. However, subarachnoid villi are sparsely distributed and underdeveloped in infants. The exact mechanism remains largely unknown, and researchers are speculating that the newly discovered glymphatic system might play a more important role in CSF drainage in infants. My research funded by this award is to first establish the important role of the glymphatic system in neonatal CSF reabsorption and identify how germinal matrix hemorrhages impair its function on the protein level.

Dr. Ding and her supervisor, Dr. John Zhang, MD, PhD are uniquely well positioned to explore these questions and link them to new therapies.

Our previous research has made a connection between astrogliotic scarring around the ventricular area and the reduced CSF reabsorption. Thus, I will try to use an anti-scarring agent to reduce the scar tissue formation and restore CSF reabsorption through the glymphatic system in post-hemorrhagic neonates.

In doing so, my research goal is to further elucidate the formation of PHH in the context of GMH and to seek pharmacological therapeutic targets.

How is this previously unknown glympathic drainage system involved in hydrocephalus?  Can we use drugs to strengthen the glymphatic drainage and prevent or treat hydrocephalus non-invasively?  All of these are open questions, but we couldn’t be more excited to support Dr. Yan Ding in figuring them out!

Thank you, Dr. Ding!  And Go Team Hydro!

Team Hydro Escapes “The Rock” for GOOD–and completes 11th Alcatraz Swim!

The sun was bright, the water was (a burning hot!) 62 degrees, and spirits were soaring as Team Hydro completed its 11th swim crossing from Alcatraz Island for Hydrocephalus!

The dense fog cleared just in time for the Coast Guard to give us the final go-ahead (note the fog bank still blocking view of the ROCK in photo below, taken as the Team posed together just moments before boarding the boats to the island).  Truly the day could not have been more perfect for our Swim for Hydrocephalus Research!!  Every swimmer made it successfully to shore, friendships were formed, and passion and funds were generated in support of our important cause:  raising awareness and funds for hydrocephalus research!!


42 swimmers signed-up for the escape, and we saw record times!  Five swimmers broke the 30-minute mark, with veterans Kyle Voulgaris (23:10), Reed Gallogly (24:00), and Steven Wright (26:32) bringing it home first in blazing time.  On the female side, Caitlin Hall (28:44), Kate Damrell (31:50), and Amy Squeglia (32:00) led the charge.  Those really braving it for the Team were our four non-wetsuit swimmers who made the swim in incredible time despite the lack of buoyancy, as well as warmth, that a wet-suit provides!  Special congrats (and admiration) to non-wet-suit swimmers:  Ryan McCarthy (32:56), Kevin Buskirk (33:14), Court Austin (33:58), and Mike Waite (34:38)!!!

As quick as our swimmers were, however, they managed to be even more inspiring.  Kyle Voulgaris and Kate Damrell (shown below), truly set the pace for the rest of us– not just in the water, but in our hearts as well —  both live with shunted hydrocephalus, and were kind enough to speak to the pre-race crowd.  Their gathered Teammates could not have been more moved or inspired as they listened to these two amazing people share their experiences with hydrocephalus, and demonstrate their personal commitment to raising research funds, in hopes that one day, others will not need suffer the surgeries, pain, medical complications, and ongoing uncertainty that they bravely endure every day of their lives.


Kyle Voulgaris and Kate Damrell — True Team Hydro Heroes!

Also among the ranks of Team Hydro were ~20 members of Genentech’s neuroscience division, as well as researchers, parents/siblings of hydrocephalus patients, and a whole bunch of fantastic friends.

Team Hydro is on a record setting pace with regard to fundraising as well, with over $112,000 raised even before the end of the swim.  But we can’t stop there!  We need to keep pressing forward–

Support the cause at  and remember, 100% of EVERY donation directly supports desperately needed research!

To all who helped to make today so special– from our SWIMMERS, to our incredible VOLUNTEERS , SUPPORTERS, and DONORS– thank you!  

Team Hydro is especially Grateful to all those at Genentech who helped make this day such an incredible SUCCESS!

We cant wait to see you all again!!

Go Team Hydro!  Don’t Not Try!

The $1M Breakthrough! Q&A with Dr. Blazer-Yost

BBY-1Dr. Bonnie Blazer-Yost, Ph.D is a Professor of Biology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the Indiana University School of Medicine.

In 2015, Team Hydro was proud to sponsor Dr. Blazer-Yost by funding an Innovator Award through the Hydrocephalus Association to support her work studying the pharmacologic modulation of cerebrospinal fluid production.  She put these funds to fantastic use, producing results that helped uncover new insights into the molecular mechanisms behind CSF and Hydrocephalus.  To boot, these results have enabled her recently to receive a highly competitive, ~$1.3 million grant from the Department of Defense, so that she can develop her insights into potential pharmacologic therapies!  What a return on investment!

We caught up with Dr. Blazer-Yost to hear about what brought her into Hydrocephalus research and to learn more about her exciting vision for the future.


TEAM HYDRO: Could you tell us a bit about your research and how it relates to hydrocephalus?

Dr. Blazer-Yost: My lab members and I are studying the basic mechanisms that are important in controlling how the body moves salt and water. Simply put, if the body wants to move water or produce a fluid like, for example, cerebrospinal fluid, it generally moves electrolytes in a very controlled way and the water follows by simple osmosis. For many years, I studied similar mechanisms in the kidney where water and electrolyte movements are hormonally controlled and are important for the regulation of blood pressure.

TEAM HYDRO: Interesting. How did you first become involved in hydrocephalus research?

Dr. Blazer-Yost: We were researching a potential treatment for a disease called polycystic kidney disease. Interestingly, this disease occurs with about the same incidence as hydrocephalus and there are no FDA-approved drugs for its treatment. Through our basic research we were able to identify a diabetes drug that could be re-purposed to treat polycystic kidney disease. We completed the preclinical testing in animals with good results and this drug is now in clinical trials for the treatment of polycystic kidney disease. During the initial pre-clinical studies we were using several animal models and one of these was a rat model that had both polycystic kidney disease and hydrocephalus. Using a chemical compound that was separate from the one that is in clinical trials we found that there was an effect on hydrocephalus rather than the kidney disease. A generous pilot grant from our University allowed us to confirm these initial findings.

TEAM HYDRO: You recently shared some fantastic news with us, fueled in part by the results from your work funded by Team Hydro. Could you describe these new developments in your lab?

Dr. Blazer-Yost: After we confirmed our initial findings it was necessary to obtain additional preliminary data that would make us competitive for national funding. The grant support from Team Hydro was instrumental in providing the funds to continue the research and obtain the preliminary data for submission of a grant to the Department of Defense ($1.3M!). We were elated to get the news that this proposal was accepted for funding. With the pilot funding from Team Hydro and our institution, we were not only able to obtain the preliminary data, but also to put together a stellar team of investigators. The grant enables me to fund 4 graduate students who are all in place and trained in the techniques we will be using. Our group is joined by a neurosurgeon who keeps us in tune with the realities of human hydrocephalus, a behavioral psychologist who will be directing studies to determine if treatment with our potential drug helps the animals attain a more normal activity profile, a radiologist who has developed the techniques that are needed to do MRIs in the rat pups to determine the degree of hydrocephalus and whether the treatment is helping this, and a new faculty member who is an expert in molecular biology and has brought a second hydrocephalic model into the study. Our overall goal at the end of this three year grant is to have conducted pre-clinical testing of the potential drug in three animal models – two pediatric and one adult.

TEAM HYDRO: How exciting!  Given the existence of these large public organizations that fund research in the United States (NIH, DoD, etc.), could you comment a bit for our donors on the important role that private grants play in the research process?  In other words, why should people donate to Team Hydro?

Dr. Blazer-Yost: No laboratory can effectively compete for grants from the large public organizations without preliminary data. Since my laboratory was, in essence, changing fields we had no preliminary data and without the pilot grants would have never been competitive for the large grant that we have now obtained. Having groups like Team Hydro that understand the disease and are willing to fund “high-risk/high-impact” projects like our initial studies, makes a huge difference in moving the research toward a cure. Groups like Team Hydro, the Hydrocephalus Association, the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation and the Cystic Fibrosis Association are all examples of fundraising groups that have come together to advance research toward a cure for a particular disease and all have had remarkably positive impacts on the research in their particular fields.

TEAM HYDRO: Well, we are certainly thrilled that you’re changing fields into Hydrocephalus!  As you know, the current (surgical) treatment for hydrocephalus is invasive, dangerous, and often ineffective. What is your lab’s vision as you look forward in this important field?

Dr. Blazer-Yost: Our goal is to study the basic mechanisms of the production of cerebrospinal fluid to try to determine how this production could be safely manipulated with drugs to decrease the amount in a controlled manner. Thus far we have shown in our animal model that treatment with our compound of interest does decrease the hydrocephalus. Our next immediate goal is to see if this works in a second animal model. The other thing that we want to do with the current funding is to obtain a better understanding of the biochemical mechanism of cerebrospinal fluid production, what factors in the body may cause this to increase and are there other points in the biochemical pathway that could be targets for drug development. Regardless of the cause of the hydrocephalus, decreasing production of the fluid would have the same effect as placing as shunt except that this does not require surgery and can used only as needed.

TEAM HYDRO:  It’s certainly hard to overstate the impact that such treatments would have on the million+ Americans with Hydrocephalus!  Thank you, Dr. Blazer-Yost!


Dr. Blazer-Yost’s work is a perfect example of everything we hope to achieve in supporting research through Team Hydro:  Not only does her work hit straight at the heart of Hydrocephalus on a molecular level, with exciting promise for non-invasive therapies, but it also has brought a new set of brilliant minds into the field of Hydrocephalus research.

But there still remains much to be done!  At Team Hydro, we are committed to supporting the next wave of researchers seeking to understand and cure this neglected yet terrible disease.  Let’s keep pushing!

Go Team Hydro!  Together we can CURE hydrocephalus!

Blazer-Yost - DoD team

Blazer-Yost Lab sends Team Hydro a “good luck wave” as we prepare to make a splash in the Bay!

Team Hydro to Escape from “The Rock” AGAIN in 10th Anniversary Swim for Hydrocephalus!

On August 26th, TEAM HYDRO will gather for an exciting and unprecedented event–a SECOND Alcatraz swim in one summer!!

This Exciting swim will not only help mark TEAM HYDRO’s 10th Anniversary, but it will also be our first Bay crossing consisting exclusively of TEAM HYDRO Swimmers. The event, made possible by a generous grant from Genentech will feature 50 TEAM HYDRO Swimmers, each of whom have committed to raising funds for hydrocephalus research!

Swimmers of all ages and from all walks of life have been working hard to spread the word regarding the desperate need for hydrocephalus research. The Team’s dedication to helping our cause has already been having incredible results! With over a week to go, our TEAM is closing in on the $100,000 mark for 2017!!  If our swimmers hit their goals by August 26th, we’ll exceed that figure!  As with all of our Team Hydro Events, 100% of funds raised by our swimmers will go DIRECTLY to support important hydrocephalus research!

Swimming along with the team will be two members who are currently living with shunted hydrocephalus–Kyle Voulgaris and Kate Damrell–and their courage and strength (despite each having already undergone countless brain surgeries and endured unimaginable pain) certainly inspires us all!

While the connection to the cause is personal for Kyle and Kate, many of our swimmers had not heard of hydrocephalus or been aware of the desperate need to find better treatments and a cure for the condition prior to joining TEAM HYDRO.  Upon learning about the difficulties facing people with hydrocephalus, these swimmers were so inspired by the cause that they became motivated to look past their own lives and use their strength and time and skill to fund hydrocephalus research that will help others –people they don’t even know– to find hope in the midst of the their struggle with this life-threatening condition!  Thank you to our TEAM HYDRO swimmers, donors and on-land supporters!! We could not be more grateful for your efforts and support!!

Indeed we could not be more proud that TEAM HYDRO is “Escaping the Rock–for Good”!

Thanks to you—We ARE well on our way to FUNDING a CURE!!

If you would like to donate to the cause, click HERE.

Penguins Plunge Over 100 Miles for Hydrocephalus!

The Little Falls Penguins of Bethesda, Maryland took to the pool this week to use their swimming abilities for GOOD!  There were 82 swimmers in all, 66 of whom swam at least one mile!  All together they tallied an incredible 109 miles in honor of those living with hydrocephalus.  The youngest swimmers were as young as five years old, but they gave it their all!

Before the swim, the swimmers learned about hydrocephalus and what it is like to live with the condition; they also shared the story of their former teammate, Kate Finlayson, who passed away from complications associated with hydrocephalus in 2010.  Each swimmer then took the time to read the story of an individual living with hydrocephalus — and donned a wristband bearing his or her name.  This helped make the cause more personal for each participant, and also provided some extra motivation when the swim started to get tiring!  After the swim, kids made cards for pediatric patients living with hydrocephalus.

Team Hydro is honored to have these penguins as a part of the Team Hydro Family!  See some photos from the swim below, and support the Little Falls Penguins in their quest to “fund” a cure by donating here.

Your Dose of Goodness for Today: The Dolphin Dash 2017!

The second annual Dolphin Dash was an amazing success!  Over the course of 3 hours, 34 swimmers (ages 3-47) swam 2,022 laps or approximately 32 miles to raise funds and awareness for hydrocephalus research!  Most swimmers were 5-10 years old.  The longest swimmers were Hannah J (age 9) and Libby B (age 10) who swam 2.5 and 2 miles, respectively!  Despite their young age, 27 of the 34 swimmers swam at least 1/2 mile or more!  The youngest swimmer was 3 years old and he swam 7 laps! Everyone was blown away by the endurance and commitment of the kids.  This cause truly touched their hearts and brought out the best in them!  Three coaches lifeguarded the event and were so moved by the efforts of their swimmers, that one of the coaches couldn’t hold back any longer and jumped in and swam a mile!

The 2017 Dolphin Dashers!

The 2017 Dolphin Dashers!

The event began as participants heard the stories of Parker and Lilly, two of their teammates living with hydrocephalus! Lilly and Parker kicked off the swim by swimming the first lap! Parker continued to cheer on his teammates, which included his younger brother (7) who swam a mile and sister (5) who swam 50 laps!  Lilly swam a mile and so did her sisters Addie (8) and Chloe (8), as well their Dad TJ.

It was a multi-generational family affair, as Lilly’s grandmother manned the sweet treats concessions stand, while Parker’s Dad was keep the crowd rocking as DJ!  About an hour into the event an ice cream truck stopped by, which was a big hit, and even the owner of the truck was moved by the cause — he is donating a portion of his proceeds to Team Hydro!

The Dolphins really gave it their all.  In the weeks leading up to the swim, one family made flyers about the swim and put them in neighboring mailboxes, while another family held a lemonade stand and donated proceeds to the cause.  What an inspiring show of selflessness and love!

Of course, it wasn’t ONLY about swimming, donations, and fun!  Those attending the swim had the chance to learn more about hydrocephalus, as stories of people impacted by Hydrocephalus were displayed all around the pool!  Swimmers wrote inspirational messages on blue balloons, which were ceremonially released at the end of the event, as a symbol of hope!

We are SO grateful to have the Dorset Dolphins as a part of the Team Hydro Family.  What an inspiring group of kids and parents (and grandparents)!  Thank you to all of you — you truly are a shining example of using your talents to serve and lift up others, making the world a better place!

So far, the Dolphins have raised nearly $6,000 — every penny of which will go toward supporting hydrocephalus research!  If you’d like to show these kids their efforts are valued and appreciated, you can make a donation here!

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Sun (and fun) Shines on Alcatraz Swim!

The sun rose with our swimmers in San Francisco this year as Team Hydro gathered on the shores of Aquatic Park for our 10th Alcatraz Swim for Hydrocephalus!  It was a beautiful day all around, as fun was had, friendships were formed, and most important awareness and funds were raised for hydrocephalus!


Swimmers and on-land supporters alike were motivated by the stories of courageous people who are living with or have passed from hydrocephalus, and gained new appreciation for the importance of our mission!  Each swimmer wore a band honoring a specific person living with (or who had passed on due to) hydrocephalus — which served as a potent and sobering reminder of why we do what we do.


One of our swimmers (swimming in honor of Lake, a 10 year  boy who has already shown rare courage in enduring many brain surgeries)  reported that during the race, he developed severe muscle cramps in his leg.  He was about to give up on the swim, and call a kayak to tow him to shore, when he looked down and saw the bracelet he was wearing bearing the name of the young man of which he was swimming in honor. Remembering all that the young patient had endured already in his young life fueled our swimmer with renewed energy and determination.  He reported raising his arm in the air and shouted, “This is for you, Lake!” and he finished the race!

Lake and his family after the Alcatraz Swim!Lake and his family after the Alcatraz Swim!
Best of all, Lake was at the finish line!  Having travelled all the way from Grimsby, Canada to watch his Dad swim from Alcatraz for the first time, Lake’s cheerful nature and determined spirit reminded every Team Hydro swimmer why we do what we do! And why we must not stop until a CURE is found!
Team Hydro members were also inspired by the resilience, strength and determination of fellow Team Hydro swimmer, 16 year old Kyle Voulgaris!!  Kyle, who happens to be living with shunted hydrocephalus, (and made his first crossing when he was only 10) finished the race in an amazing 30:38 minutes — 5th place overall!!
Best of all, as donations continue to come in, Team Hydro has already raised almost $44,000 in 2017! We thank every one of our swimmers, donors, and on-land supporters!
THANK YOU and let’s keep working and swimming until we FUND a CURE!

If you haven’t donated yet, it’s not too late– You can easily donate here now.