• News broke out mid-February 2023 that Zach Roloff had a sharp health decline
• Zach underwent a ventriculoperitoneal shunt revision surgery
• His parents, Tori and Matt, broke the news to their followers via social media
• Matt was criticized for not being there for Zach
• It is possible that one of Zach and Tori's kids may need a shunt in the future

Viewers were shocked and fearful after news broke out that Zach Roloff had a sharp health decline in mid-February 2023. Anyone following the Roloff family in “Little People, Big World” knows that people with achondroplasia or dwarfism have more neurological complications than average sized people. Limited access to information caused loyal viewers of the show to worry, as they were forced to rely on hearsay, reports from Roloff Farms visitors, social media and news updates.

More precisely, the last episode – 10 of season 24, aired on 3 January 2023 on TLC, hence no one at home had news about the family for over a month. Additionally, Zach has had some worrying symptoms over the last 24 seasons, and several medical eventss. With that in mind, viewers rightly feared that problems either returned or worsened. We’re here to explain Zach Roloff’s brain surgery and rehabilitation, and what led to it.

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When did news break of Zach’s health update?

Viewers were in the dark until late on 8 February 2023, when Tori briefly posted a hospital update via Instagram Stories, revealing that ‘Zach’s shunt is in need of repair, and he will have surgery in the morning. They say it’s a routine surgery, but it’s far from my routine, and Zach and I are nervous.’ Not too long afterwards, Tori brought her followers up to date post-operation, by posting an Instagram picture of Zach in a hospital bed, seemingly asleep, with gauze wrapped around his head.

She explained, ‘ Zachary had emergency shunt revision this morning, and it’s been a scary 72 hours, but he was doing well and recovering.’ She added that she was grateful for everyone who prayed, and said she felt blessed by the neurosurgeon team who attended to his needs and thankful to his mom, Amy, for taking care of the kids by playing hide ‘n’ seek so they didn’t realize something was going on.

Tori added that the emergency surgery may address Zach’s frequent migraines, and called her husband ‘freaking bad ass who handled brain surgery like a rockstar.’ As a final note, she described their journey with the hashtag #storyofzachandstory and a Bible passage Jeremiah 17:14, which in the new International version reads ‘Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.’

How did Matt and Amy break the news to their followers?

Several hours after Tori’s notification via Instagram Stories, Zach’s dad, Matt Roloff, posted on Instagram, ‘Family has been in constant contact and communication. He’s in good hands with Tori advocating tooth and nail for his best interest. We are all praying for Zach as he undergoes a [sic] important shunt revision.’

Like Tori, Amy first notified her audience via social media, using Instagram Stories. She first said that her live session with fans, scheduled for 9 February, would be canceled because ‘family calls’ and clarified she would hold one on the 23rd of that month. She kept things vague, saying, ‘Zach is in the hospital, and has to go through some surgery.’

About two days later, early on 10 February, Amy updated her Instagram followers with more details and thanked her friends and family for help and prayers, adding that ‘she was watching the grandkids, which has been a blast’ so Tori could be there with Zach.

What was the procedure Zach underwent?

Neurological problems in people with achondroplasia come from the stunted bone growth and development of their organs, ligaments and muscles. Common mild issues include apnea, ataxia, urinary incontinence, and reduced elbow mobility. However, they can also be severe such as excess fluid surrounding the brain called hydrocephalus, spinal stenosis or narrowing of the lower spine channel, unstable neck bones, and advanced forms of arthritis.

Zach had a ventriculoperitoneal shunt installed in his body as a kid which, based on the John Hopkins University’s definition, is ‘a hollow tube surgically placed in the brain (or occasionally in the spine) to help drain cerebrospinal fluid and redirect it to another location in the body where it can be reabsorbed.’

This intervention helps mitigate the consequences of dangerous conditions such as hydrocephalus, and alleviates possible daily problems such as bladder control, mobility, mild dementia, and chronic pain or pressure.

Several days later, in his update at home, he clarified that he’d had ‘a shunt revision after getting really sick’, meaning the tube had to be adjusted to ensure intended functionality.

When did Zach return home?

On 13 February 2023, three days after the news came out, Zach announced on his Instagram account, @zroloff07, that he was home. That was longer than the typical time, a day or two at the hospital and a return to activities such as school or work within a week. Zach, in the caption below a picture of him cuddling his three kids, Josiah, Lilah and Jackson, explained that it was an emotional week, but reassured fans that he was on the road to recovery.

He thanked everyone who contacted the family or came by to help, and called Tori ‘the rock of the family that held it together by rallying the kids.’ Unsurprisingly, Zach noted how happy he was that his mom showed up twice while he was sick, allowing him to visit the emergency room (ER) with his wife.

He added that he would continue advocating for nurses and doctors who helped him with emergency intervention, to show additional gratitude. Finally, he mentioned that he was thinking of other patients still in the intensive care unit  (ICU), ER, or the neurology department of Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).

A day later, on Valentine’s Day, Zach reiterated his appreciation for Tori , adding that ‘she is the only one he wants to wake up to coming out of anesthesia,’ hinting that he groggily said that at the hospital. Simultaneously, Tori shared photos of Zach lifting their younger son, Josiah Luke, from his chest to look at him. In another, she said that she took the kids out to play, showing Lilah and Jackson using scooters to race, ‘so dad can rest.’ Posts from both parents suggest Zach has regained his energy, and is surrounded by close family and in good spirits.

This wasn’t the first time that Zach was rushed to hospital

Brain-related problems loyal fans know about include having that shunt implanted in his head as a child. Then, Amy rushed Zack to the hospital as a teenager when he couldn’t stop vomiting. Doctors found that the shut, which is the shunt tube, started leaking, prompting a revision Before urgery to alleviate the fluid built up in his brain.

before his first son’s birth in May 2017, Zach had problems with migraine and nausea caused by stress and anxiety, not his shunt,. Luckily, he bounced back after two injections for pain, high blood pressure, and dehydration.

Posted by Zach Roloff & Tori Roloff Fanpage on Friday, December 16, 2022

Unfortunately, the problems returned in June of that year, and he continued to have severe headaches and nausea, saying, ‘Lately, I’ve just been getting really sick. Big, throbbing headaches. It’s never been this bad.’ He even said that he felt like he was on his deathbed. His parents urged him to get it checked out, fearing the shunt failed, but Zach delayed it due to obligations with his newborn son.

Ultimately, doctors couldn’t conclude a source from the results, telling him to keep a log of his symptoms. From the limited information, it seems that the problem existed for several years, and culminated recently, but Zach reacted early.

Viewers often mistakenly think he hurt his head during a medical scare in June 2022. At that time, the family took him to the hospital on suspicion of a broken hand, and with more injuries from a fall. Luckily, doctors discovered that he’d only dislocated his thumb, and he recovered in a few days.

People criticized Matt for not being there for Zach

Although not all fans feel strongly about this issue, many have left negative comments on social media profiles belonging to Matt and Jeremy Roloff, and Jeremy’s wife Audrey Mirabella Botti.

Matt took the brunt of the initial attack for seemingly posting about Zach’s issue before Tori. They felt such a solemn reveal should come from the closest family first. Amy waited nearly a day to clarify the situation, and focused on caring for the grandkids, both behaviors which fans found genuine and loving.

Viewers felt Matt should visit his son in the hospital on the day of the surgery, or I the days afterwards during recovery. Instead, a day before his son came home, he was invited by First Class Fatherhood to attend Super Bowl’s Media Day in Miami, Florida. He then revealed that he’d taken a flight. Surprisingly, instead of returning to Roloff Farms or to Battlefield, Washington, where Zach and Tori relocated, he uploaded Instagram pictures with his mom, Peggy “Huny” Roloff, and girlfriend, Caryn Chandler, in Arizona.

Fans believe that the feud between three male members of the Roloff family began during the proposed sale of 16 acres of Roloff Farms for $4 million. Amy sold her portion of 32.28 acres for $975,000 in August 2020, and Matt borrowed $825,000 to acquire it. However, he didn’t take the expected step; he refused to sell it to Jeremy and Zach, because they didn’t offer enough money, or ‘weren’t good enough to run the farm,’ according to Zach’s testimony. Tori responded, ‘Whether we don’t have the money, don’t have the skillset, it wasn’t cool. I never wanna see someone talk to my husband like that ever.’ Instead, Matt turned Roloff Farms into a short-term, Airbnb-style property, choosing financial benefit over family legacy. Amy was also disappointed in his decision, but unable to act.

Jeremy also got negative comments for ignoring Zach

Neither Jeremy nor Audrey posted social media updates about Zach. Even worse, around the time of surgery, Jeremy posted an Instagram story about picking up a takeout food order in his Toyota Land Cruiser. Although the two publicly shunned the show, moved to a farm eight minutes away from Roloff Farms, and feuded with Zach over the farm’s purchase, they remained active online. Therefore, viewers expected at least an acknowledgment of Zach’s precarious situation from them.

Is Tori scared her kids will need similar surgery?

Zach and Tori married in 2015 and have three children, son Jackson Kyle, born on 12 May 2017; daughter Lilah Ray on 19 November 2019, and Josiah Luke on 30 April 2022. Like their father, all three children were born with achondroplasia, and had disproportionate dwarfism, meaning their torso was of average size, but their limbs are shortened, their heads are enlarged (macrocephaly), and they will have a prominent forehead after their growth spurts.

When asked if she would wish to have a chance to learn what raising an average-sized child would be, Tori replied, ‘Absolutely not. I’m obsessed with the three kids God gave me, and I’d have it no other way’. Her statements suggest the family was well-equipped to deal with the condition, and accepted that fact, so Tori seems ready to deal with whatever may happen when the time comes.

Will their children require equivalent surgery to Zach’s?

Besides the shunt, Zach has had several operations to help his quality of life, including leg straightening surgery,, and one to relieve spinal cord pressure. In contrast, no one updated the viewers about all the medical interventions Zach and Tori’s kids underwent because they mainly chose to protect their privacy.

However, the parents revealed that their son Jackson Kyle underwent surgery to correct leg bowing in November 2022. Since Jackson would grow about an inch per year based on doctor’s notes, Zach stated the effects of leg-straightening screws wouldn’t be as visible as with someone of average size.

Tori and Zach were also open about their daughter’s condition, strabismus or misalignment of the eyes. They announced that they would consider surgery as soon as she could talk. That way, she could provide feedback during pre-operation tests, and comment on the improvements after the procedure. With that in mind, it’s not unreasonable to assume that one of their kids may need a shunt at some point during their lives. Luckily, with so much experience, the parents will likely spot the warning signs much earlier.

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