You'd never know it from looking at her, but my sister Rachel has pressure settings.
They're regulated by a surgically implanted valve in her head, part of a system called a ventriculoperitoneal shunt that makes her one of a growing number of humans medically augmented with implantable and attachable devices.
The shunt drains excess cerebrospinal fluid that would otherwise over-accumulate inside her skull due to a congenital condition called hydrocephalus, or "water on the brain," that can damage brain tissue if left untreated. The apparatus directs the fluid from the magnetized pressure valve in her head down through a tube that leads to her abdomen, where it's re-absorbed by her body.
Yes, my sister has a magnet in her head, and to answer a few questions commonly asked since her latest surgery a few months ago, yes, she'll be able to go through airport security scanners and metal detectors and stand near microwaves. But she'll need to be cautious of some kinds of audio headphones, and after she gets magnetic resonance imaging scans, a doctor will have to hold a special handheld device to her head to recalibrate her pressure settings.
Think of hydrocephalus as a plumbing problem. She needs tubes and valves to do what most of our bodies do naturally. … Read more