Senior battling rare disease returns to CMR, old friends

Victoria Zawacki, Staff Writer

Going through school with a rare disease is difficult, something that senior Damian Guerrero knows all about.
“At 8 years old, I was diagnosed with pseudo cerebri,” Guerrero said. “My spinal fluid is very temperamental.”
Pseudo cerebri is a condition characterized by an increase in pressure within the skull where the brain sits, with no clear cause.
It is called pseudo-tumor because it presents similar to some brain tumors with an increase in pressure that causes symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting and blurred vision.
This condition sometimes fools doctors into thinking the patient has a brain tumor. However, no tumor is present.
Guerrero, 17, started missing school because his shunt failed. A shunt is a mechanical device that drains spinal fluid. Without his shunt he said he got increased headaches.
The doctors put a new one in about a week ago after they tried to see if he could live without one. After a month, Guerrero said his spinal fluid had built up in the back of his head crushing his optic nerves.
His spinal fluid was at 55, and a healthy spinal fluid level is 15-18. Now he wears a patch over one eye every day. He rotates the patch daily so he can use both eyes instead of only relaxing one and using one. He said he relaxes both eyes, but only one a day.
“They double my medication when I am having a severe headache,” he said.
Guerrero was first at Benefis for a week, the second time was for a day, and the third time was for four days. While in the hospital he said he never really saw friends, and had all his classes switched to online.
During surgery the doctors gave him more medication than the normal person would be given to keep him asleep.
Guerrero said they did this because when he gets headaches they tend to keep him awake. He can’t travel in an airplane because the quick change in the pressure causes him a problem.
“For me online classes were difficult,” he said. “I couldn’t find my homework.”
He tried online classes, but it was too hard for him. He said he learns better when in a classroom. He is an auditory learner, meaning he learns to do things better when he hears them first.
Just recently he decided to switch all his classes back to CMR. He said he can’t really play any sports, because his shunt is closer to the surface now.
He hangs with friends but, he just has to be more careful than others. He can’t do all the things he might want to do, like join a military branch.
“I like to skateboard,” Guerrero said. “I even like to hang out with friends and drive around.”