In 1960 Roald Dahl’s son Theo developed hydrocephalus (fluid collection in the brain) following a road accident. He needed repeated surgeries to drain the fluid through a thin tube (shunt) away from his brain. The problem was that the shunts repeatedly got blocked.
Dahl knew Stanley Wade, an expert in precision hydraulic engineering from their shared hobby of flying model aircrafts. In 1960 a team formed by Wade, neurosurgeon Kenneth Till and Dahl invented a new valve with a negligible risk of blockage. By the time the device was perfected, Theo had healed to the point at which it was not necessary for him. However, several thousand other children around the world benefited from the WDT valve before medical technology progressed beyond it.
His daughter Olivia died of measles at the age of seven in 1962. Her death destroyed him. Many years later he spoke of his lack of fear of death, “If Olivia can do it, so can I.”
Roald Dahl believed in taking practical steps to improve the lives of those around him. He generously gave his time and money to help seriously ill children and their families, including many he never met. Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity helps to make life better for seriously ill children and young people in the UK.
The charity believes that every child has the right to a more marvellous life, no matter how ill they are, or short their life may be. They focus upon helping those who have the biggest needs, and who aren’t being fully supported by anybody else. This might be because they have a serious rare condition, be living in poverty, or not have any family at all.
2016 marks 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl, an extraordinary storyteller, a pilot, a spy, an inventor and most of all, a father.