Roald Dahl and the WDT

Here’s a cheering thing.  (And who doesn’t need cheering things right now?)

I’d seen this documentary when it came out a while ago, and it was doing the rounds again relatively recently.

Roald Dahl was just one of those truly extraordinary guys.  RAF war hero, spy, friend to Franklin D Roosevelt, author of classic children’s fiction, you name it.  Not to mention a life littered with family dying too soon, starting with his sister and father when he was only 3 years old.

But one of the most extraordinary stories was his infant son being in a car accident and developing a condition where spinal fluid put pressure on the brain, and needed to be drained.  But the drains that the doctors fitted kept blocking, again and agin.  So… only Roald Dahl would approach a mate of his who built model aeroplanes, a man called Stanley Wade, and ask him to build a new drain himself.

It does sound like something out of one of his stories.  But the thing I love about it is Dahl’s attitude: when faced with this seemingly unfixable medical problem that was killing his son, he just decided to invent a solution.  And it was a wonderful piece of lateral thinking, I think, to ask for help from someone who built tiny aeroplane engines, and would therefore presumably have both the skills and the tools to develop the solution.

Wade and Dahl coordinated with Kenneth Till, the neurosurgeon who was attending Dahl’s son, and together they developed the Wade-Dahl-Till valve: the WDT.

And Roald Dahl’s son is still alive today.