The Smyrna-Clayton community will welcome another 5K fundraiser this fall, hosting Delaware’s first-ever Hydrocephalus Walk at Smyrna High School.

The Smyrna-Clayton community will welcome another 5K fundraiser this fall, hosting Delaware’s first-ever Hydrocephalus Walk at Smyrna High School.

So what exactly is hydrocephalus and how did the walk make its way to Smyrna? Hydrocephalus is a chronic neurological condition where there’s an abnormal accumulation of cerebral spinal fluid in the brain, which results in increased pressure on the brain.

As for why the walk is being held in Smyrna, well it’s kind of a long story.

When a headache isn’t just a headache

George Wicks III, of Smyrna, had suffered with headaches for years. It was these constant migraines that led him and his wife, Debbie, to a doctor’s visit in 1980. A CAT scan led to a surprising and not necessarily inviting new diagnosis — hydrocephalus.

George, now 66, said that while he was diagnosed in 1980 he’s most likely had the disease since he was 18 when he had the first of three concussions. The first occurred when he fell on his head doing a handspring. The second occurred while working on his farm and a 30-pound concrete slab fell on his head from six feet above. The third occurred during a motorcycle accident; Wicks wasn’t wearing a helmet.

In the 32 years since the diagnosis, George has had 86 surgeries. There’s no cure for hydrocephalus but there are treatments including a shunt that goes on his brain. Currently, he has a programmable shunt in his head.

Learning to cope

Even with the shunt, George is in constant pain and still has headaches.

Debbie, who is the Smyrna School District superintendent, said it’s remarkable he’s been able to go on.

He’s lost two businesses as a result of his diagnosis; he was a farmer for 25 years and then owned a landscaping business.

George said he should’ve died five times by now due to bouts of chemical meningitis, septic poisoning, and a 106 degree fever.

Even with the pain and the possibility of more surgeries, George and his family — which includes three children and nine grandchildren — keep plucking along. He’s even embarking on a new career as a singer.

So how does he do it? With the help of his family and God.

“Life hasn’t been all bad so you just got to look for the good things and dwell on those, and try to forget the bad things,” George said. “This whole thing that we have here is a gift from God. Nobody ever asked to be born. It’s a gift from God and I appreciate it because I want to live it. My job is to be the best that I can do with what I’ve been given to work with and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

 Walking to raise awareness

The idea for the Hydrocephalus Walk came from Kate Wilber, daughter of George and Debbie Wicks. Growing up watching her dad deal with this sickness, Kate wanted to find a way to give back.

“We were always kind of looking for ways to find a purpose for it all,” Kate said. “I think it’s nice to be able to help in some way, that’s really why I’m doing this to find some way to help my dad other than just being there for him.”

Kate said they’ve gotten a good response to the 5K, already raising roughly $4,500. They expect more than 200 people to participate and to raise $15,000.

Not only will it be a walk, but there will be music, kids games, food, a t-shirt contest and more. Volunteers are still needed. Teams can register the day of the walk but it’s preferred if people sign up beforehand on the Hydrocephalus Association website. The proceeds go back to the association to raise money for research and hopefully some day a cure.

Debbie said since there isn’t much money that goes into hydrocephalus research, they were lucky George was able to get cutting-edge surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital: “It probably saved his life. They would say ‘Try to be patient because technology will catch up with you.’”

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