Monday, August 20, 2007

About Brooke...

Brooke is a sweet, beautiful, kind-hearted 13 year old girl with a serious neurological condition called Chiari Malformation. This is a rare condition of the brain that often causes its patients no problems at all. However, when it does cause problems, those problems can be very serious.

With Chiari Malformation, the Cerebellum protrudes into the space that the Brain Stem normally occupies by itself. This puts pressure on the Brain Stem and restricts the flow of the Cerebrospinal Fluid. This can cause a domino effect of problems. The patient can then develop cysts in the spine, neurological symptoms, even paralysis.

We have caught this early with Brooke and although she has a fairly severe case, the neurosurgeon is hopeful that her symptoms are not permanent and we pray they will be relieved with the surgery. Right now she is suffering from daily severe headaches and often migraines with stroke-like symptoms, neck pain, pain and numbness when she uses her hands, and generalized body pains.

To relieve these symptoms, they must make more room for the Cerebellum and relocate it completely in the skull, where it belongs, returning the flow of the Cerebrospinal Fluid back to normal. I want you to understand without being too graphic, so please forgive me if I give you too much or too little information in this paragraph. The neurosurgeon will remove part of Brooke's skull, cut the dura covering the brain, relocate/reshape the cerebellum, close the dura with a "patch" made using tissue removed from another site, under her scalp, then close the incision. It's much more involved than that, of course, but that's the surgery in very basic terms, as the neurosurgeon explained it to me.

Brooke is still undergoing testing to determine the extent of her condition. It is not known at this time if she already has developed cysts in her spine or if she has Tethered Cord Syndrome, which is also common in Chiari patients. If she has these conditions, they will either operate on those conditions at the same time as her Chiari decompression, or they will schedule another surgery.

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