8-year-old overcoming rare skull pressure condition to return to ballfield

Published 12:16 am Friday, September 8, 2023

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ORANGE — Thanks to his eagle-eyed coach, 8-year-old Barrett Williams is finding his way back to the ballfield following a diagnosis for the rare Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension.

The journey started just more than two weeks ago when coach Michael Searles called for a practice on Aug. 20.

Cryslynn Wolfford noted it was odd to have a practice on Sunday as she routinely uses the day to rest and recharge for the family, but instead took son Barrett to the ballfield for some fun.

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“We came out and he went through drills and Coach Mike noticed Barrett was favoring his right side more than his left side,” Wolfford said.

Coach suggested some simple finger eye tests, and Wolfford soon discovered her son was having issues seeing out of one of his eyes.

It was suggested they see the eye doctor, so that is where mom and son went the next day.

After three hours with the eye doctor, it was discovered Barrett’s optic nerve was swollen with a lot of pressure built up on his brain.

He needed an MRI as soon as possible.

The next day, the MRI came back clear of tumors or masses.

Barrett Williams, seen at the baseball field, was cleared this week to return to physical activity following his diagnosis for Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. (Courtesy photo)

Doctors said Barrett had fluid and pressure built up on his brain and eyes. His pediatrician started him on medicine, but Barrett had a reaction to that, his mother said, and the family ended up in the emergency department at Texas Children’s Hospital on Aug. 26.

“By the time we made it to the ER, his right optic nerve had already started to swell,” Wolfford said. “They were really concerned and admitted him to figure out what was wrong.”

Doctors put Barrett to sleep to perform another MRI and spinal tap, eventually letting his family know the pressure was really high and they were going to drain it to get Barrett some relief.

A review of the information led to the Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension diagnosis, which Wolfford said means some of the vessels that are in her son’s brain leading to his eyes are narrow. The fluid is not flowing like it should and building up with pressure.

Wolfford was told the condition is commonly found in older or overweight women, and is exceedingly rare for a young boy. She said the incidents of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension in children are less then 1 percent.

“So he is actually on medicine right now and will have to be on it for 30 days,” Wolfford said. “Then we have to follow up with neuro and ophthalmology at Texas Children’s and go from there just to see if the medicine is working.”

According to his mother, Barrett is doing a lot better then she is through all the medical stays and treatments.

She describes her son as “very strong” with a main goal to live his 8-year-old life again by going to school, playing baseball and not having headaches. The drive to get back to how it was before is keeping him strong, she said.

Wolfford said Coach Mike’s initial concern for Barrett brings tears to her eyes.

“It touched my heart, Barrett’s heart, Barrett’s dad’s heart,” she said. “We all have a special place in our hearts for him after this.”

Barrett was released Tuesday to start physical activities and met with teammates and Coach Mike at the field in preparation for tournament action on Sunday.

“He is a tough little boy,” mom said. “He has his mind made up that he is going to be OK. The medicine he is on makes him sensitive to sunlight, so it will be a play-it-by-ear thing to see how much he can handle without resting.”

Coach Michael Searles said he is just relieved Barrett and his mom were able to get some answers.

“I can’t imagine the fear of the unknown she was having to deal with,” he said. “I think I did what any coach would do. I really believe God had me at the right place at the right time. I’m just really glad it was noticed when it was and Barrett has been able to get the treatment needed so far. I’m very thankful and grateful for the medical professionals that are helping him. He’s a tough dude and I’m a lucky coach to have him.”