There are hundreds of thousands of people who have Spina Bifida, and throughout the month of October, we celebrate National Spina Bifida Awareness Month to raise awareness and support for them. Spina Bifida is a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. This neural tube becomes the baby’s brain, spinal cord, and the tissues that enclose them. Spina bifida occulta or “hidden” spina bifida doesn’t cause any disabilities and it doesn’t appear until later in life. Typically, there’s a gap in the baby’s back instead of an opening and there’s no damage to the spinal cord or the nerves.
History of National Spina Bifida Awareness Month
Spinal defects have existed since the beginnings of mankind. Anthropologists have uncovered many depictions in statues and artifacts from ancient civilizations of people young and old with malformed spinal cords. In the Classical Period of the Greek physician Hippocrates, descriptive writings revealed such defects, though they didn’t have the proper medical science and tools to heal them at the time.
The first description of a spina bifida case was by Nicolas Tulp in 1653. Tulp proposed the term and described it as a vertebral anomaly and it was considered a duplication of the spinous process of the vertebra. Spina Bifida was first found in the textbook Observationes Medicae, written by Tulp, with descriptions of six Spina Bifida cases. One illustration showed a Spina Bifida case of a child with a large lumbar level myelomeningocele defect.
From the early 1600s to the mid-1800s, surgeons attempted to treat Spina Bifida to no avail. Despite this, they continued their research and approached the defect with new techniques, draining or injecting solutions into the sac. Mortality rates fell, but patient debilitation was still the end result. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Dr. James Morton used an iodine and glycerine solution for injection into the sac and this technique proved successful.
In 1973, the Spina Bifida Association of America was formed in Chicago Illinois and it was primarily used as a source of information for its chapters and members. They enabled children with spina bifida to live longer by using new treatments and diagnostic tools that helped families affected by it. As time goes on, the month of October is named as its official month and in the twenty-first century, events and fundraisers have increased in the ongoing battle to better treat spina bifida.