Living With Chiari Malformation: Part 2
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Health and Wellness

Living With Chiari Malformation: Part 2

Discovering the problem behind the pain

Living With Chiari Malformation: Part 2

The headache was instant. This time, though, there was something more. I held my breath as my eyes widened. I tried to move, but my legs were lifeless. My whole body went into a panic. My arms and torso squirmed around in my bed, trying to wake my legs up. Nothing worked. My legs were numb, and my mind was paralyzed with fear.

"MOM! HELP!" Terrified shrieks escaped from my throat as tears streamed down my cheeks. The sound of my mom's footsteps pounded on the hardwood, louder and louder, as she came bursting through my bedroom's doorway.

"Britni, what's wrong? What can I do?" My mother's sweet voice soothed my ears, but the panic was overwhelming.

"MY LEGS! MOM, MY LEGS! I DON'T KNOW! HELP! I CAN'T FEEL THEM!" Each word spoken reached a higher pitch. My voice quivered with every breath.

"Britni, sweetie, it's okay. It's okay. Calm down with me, okay? Deep breaths. I'll call the doctor right now. It's going to be okay." She seemed to be reassuring herself as much as she was me, but it was enough. I closed my eyes and tried to drift away from the pain and discomfort. My head was throbbing, but I was used to that by now. Why could I not feel my legs though? Wait. Would I ever be able to feel my legs again? I'm only 14 years old! Tears flooded my face once more. Britni, stop it. You're fine. It's okay. Several minutes passed. I could hear my mom's muffled, yet frantic voice through the walls of my bedroom. "Is an MRI medically necessary NOW? My daughter cannon FEEL HER LEGS! Will you PLEASE help us NOW?!"

Only five minutes had gone by since the feeling left my legs completely. The pain in my head had subsided. Mom walked back into my bedroom. "Alright, we're going to go get you an MRI today. The insurance is finally deciding that it's medically necessary for you to have one. Just stay right here. Call me if you need anything." She walked into her bathroom to finish getting dressed and ready.

My MRI was scheduled for that morning in Fayetteville. During the car ride, a wave of relief rushed over me. Tiny, excruciating pin-pricks entered into my lower extremities. The sensation was painfully overwhelming, but I could feel my legs again. Hallelujah. Thank you Jesus. Hip to toe, the pin-pricks swam the length of both legs, giving them life once again. The burning tingle was almost too much to handle, but within a few minutes the pain disappeared. For the first time that morning, my mind was at ease.

My very first MRI lasted almost an hour. A brace secured my head to the table. The machine rolled me headfirst into the compact tunnel. Deafening clicks reverberated throughout my entire body. When it was finally over, I felt stiff from lying motionless on the hard surface. My mother drove me straight to the doctor who ordered my MRI. He gave me the answer that, after searching for over two years, I never thought I would find: Chiari Malformation Type One.

The MRI showed that the opening to the base of my skull wasn't wide enough for the spinal fluid to flow from my spinal cord into my brain. Explained more simply, every time my body strained itself, my spinal cord was kinked shut like a water hose. From the very beginning (more than two years ago) the symptoms were agonizing. The headaches were most common, happening anywhere from five to 15 times a day. Aside from headaches, I was plagued by vertigo, poor depth perception, difficulty swallowing, incontinence, and numb limbs, along with other, less severe problems. And finally, we knew the cause. Finally, after years of daily pain, confusion, and embarrassment, we had an answer.

Accompanying this answer was a word that no person wants to hear: surgery. At 14 years old, I would have my first neck and brain surgery. I arrived at the hospital in Little Rock, AR on August 30, 2010 at 5:30 a.m. The next few hours were filled with IVs, a carefree and unusually sassy Britni, and lots and lots of singing. In those moments leading up to surgery, the wall was "snowing", I told my meme that her face was funny, and I had the entire floor laughing. The time came to head back into the operating room. Being pushed down the hall by the nurses, I didn't have a care in the world. I serenaded everyone around me with the loudest, goofiest voice I could muster: "Don't worry! About a thing! Cause every little thing! Is gonna be alright!" Because I was going to be fixed right?... Wrong. Lights rushed past overhead. The blinding fluorescence and sound of wheels rolling on the tile floor soon faded into a silent darkness.

My eyelids felt heavy. Almost as if Satan himself were weighing them down with a mighty grip. The struggle to open them became more and more severe as I heard my name over and over again. "Britni. Britni. Britni." I wanted so badly to open them. "Britni, come on. Wake up." My mom's voice echoed in my scrambled mind as I weaved in and out of consciousness. I finally mustered up enough strength to let my eyelids sleepily fall open. The room surrounding me came into focus for a split second. Just long enough to see my mom. Her sweet face was camouflaged by an expression of worry, brought on by the wrinkles spread across her forehead. Then blackness consumed me. The beeping of a monitor rang in my ears. A firm grasp was laid on my arm. "Britni. Breathe." My eyes opened yet again. Chilled air crept into my lungs. Blurred objects were all around. The beeping subsided for mere seconds. Then blackness. Nothing but blackness. Repetitive beeps. The pulsating pressure of a hand on my forearm. And the strong, yet noticeably distraught voice of my mother begging me to breathe.

To Be Continued...

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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