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Children's Health

Meet Paul and Adryana: #CohenHero siblings with spina bifida now live shunt-free

“I have hydrocephalus, neurogenic bladder, and spina bifida,” says 15-year-old Paul Navarro Jr. “Oh, and clubbed feet.”

Both Paul and his 8-year-old sister Adryana were born with spina bifida, in which the spinal cord fails to close. At their births, Mark Mittler, MD, co-director of the division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, and his team repaired the spinal cord.

Living with fear of the emergency room and another surgery

Hydrocephalus — fluid on the brain — often develops with spina bifida. Dr. Mittler put shunts in the children’s brains at three days old, allowing the water to drain into their abdomens. But shunts easily clog or malfunction.

“Adryana and I had to go through numerous surgeries to revise the shunt,” says Paul. “We’ve had to go to the emergency room during Christmas, our birthdays, just different holidays, and it’s been really tough.” Paul has endured 69 surgeries related to his shunt; Adryana, 19.

Finding freedom through a doctor’s persistence

An innovative procedure developed by Dr. Mittler now allows both children to be shunt-free. A hole was drilled in the base of their brains to allow the fluid to drain more normally. With no shunt, the headaches Paul and Adryana endured are also gone.

quotation mark Cohen has given us the best Christmas present ever. We will always be grateful.
Karen, Paul and Adryana's mom

In 2018 Paul and Adryana enjoyed their first Christmas without shunts — and without fearing a trip to the emergency room.

“Cohen has given us the best Christmas present ever,” says their mother, Karen Navarro. “We will always be grateful.”

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