His mother, Kim Ruiz, impressed with her son’s fortitude, has turned their shared experience into motivation to help others with the same condition.
Joey has had three shunts, a procedure in which a doctor skillfully guides a catheter through the brain matter, Ruiz explained, to combat the fluid that builds up inside his brain cavities. The shunt diverts the flow of cerebrospinal fluid from within the central nervous system to another area of the body, where it can be absorbed.
The average shunt needs to be replaced every two years, and Joey sees a neurologist four times a year to find out if he will need another operation to combat the illness, which is shared by more than 1 million Americans.
It’s a battle his mother describes as inspiring.
“He is my hero,” Ruiz said. “I can’t even tell you how much I am in awe of him. He’s so positive. He deals with this on such a higher level. It’s just his nature. It’s very rare that he will complain or cry about this condition. I am just so thankful for him.”
Joey acquired hydrocephalus during birth, his mother said, because of their doctor’s negligence. When Joey was born at Watsonville Community Hospital, the obstetrician’s use of a vacuum extractor led to massive brain hemorrhaging, according to Ruiz.
She recalls her baby was “not moving and being pulled too hard — the nerves are torn from the spinal cord and shoulder and arm.”
“He continues to suffer, and it all derives from that day,” she said.
According to the Medical Board of California newsletter, Dr. Laura E. Diana was “charged with gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, and incompetence in the labor and delivery management of a patient by failing to follow up on an abnormal glucose tolerance test, continuing the administration of Lovenox within 24 hours of delivery, and excessive use of a vacuum extractor.” She was given a public reprimand Jan. 12.
But Ruiz’s involvement hasn’t stopped there.
Since Ruiz discovered her son had hydrocephalus, she has spearheaded an effort in Northern California to spread awareness about the condition. She is involved in a hydrocephalus support group in Tracy, was recently appointed director of the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation’s California division and is actively starting her own nonprofit called A Pocketful of Change.
She’s also planning her second Hydrocephalus Awareness Walk and Family Fun Day on Oct. 8 to raise money and tell more people about the disorder.
“I think we’re going to really get some awareness created this year,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz added that Joey has become an educator himself. She said his optimism buoys other patients when he visits with them.
“He is absolutely amazing. He wants to help and teach other kids,” Ruiz said. “He has all these pains and problems, and he wants to go out and make these friends.”
At a glance
• WHAT: Hydrocephalus support group
• WHEN: 7 to 8 p.m., second Tuesday of every month
• WHERE: Healthy Connections Resource Center, 35 E. 10th St.
• DETAILS: All people who have been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, have friends or family with the disorder or want to learn more about the chronic condition are welcome. Donations can be sent to A Pocketful of Change at US Bank, 2175 W. Grant Line Road.
• INFO: Kim Ruiz, 814-8815 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or www.hydrocephaluskids.org
• In the Spotlight is an occasional profile in Our Town. To nominate someone to or to comment on this feature, call 835-3030 or e-mail email@example.com.