Brain Things Part 1 (Chiari Malformation)

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Hey guys, it’s Mr. Well Balanced Wallet, here again. I promised Mrs. Kamika that I would contribute sometimes, so here I am! She is doing a great job with Well Balanced Wallet. I am both impressed and crazy proud of her (don’t tell her I said that). Anyway, while I’m here, I would like to talk about the year we’ve had dealing with my condition, Chiari Malformation. This month (August 2016) will be exactly a year since we found out what was going on with my brain. I will say while pledging my fraternity in college, I thought, for sure, that life couldn’t throw any more curve balls close to anything I battled during that time, and BOY was I wrong. Allow me to elaborate.

In May of 2015, I developed a constant cough that just wouldn’t go away. Kamika and I were still wedding fresh, and I figured that maybe this cough was just a yearly allergy cough that most of us get during the season changes. We tried everything from over the counter medications, to doctor visits. Of course, I ventured into the dark area of becoming an Internet doctor. But, we couldn’t beat this cough.

Chiari Malformation

Now, during this time, I was a restaurant manager of a casual dining restaurant. Let’s call it Hell’s Diner since that’s what it felt like.  I’d figured that maybe the stress of the job was weighing down on me. Maybe I’d even caught something from one of my employees. Then, came a second symptom. One morning I woke up to leave for work, kissed my wife the customary three times (2 on the cheek, 1 on the lips) and bid her adieu. In doing so, I noticed that I was really hoarse, almost to the point of not being able to speak at all. Thinking this was normal, I continued through the day, thinking that, for sure, I’ve caught a common cold.

Weeks later, it was now late June, and my voice was still very hoarse. Now, a third and fourth symptom had now reared its ugly head. My entire right arm, from shoulder to my finger tips, had lost all feeling. Also, I’d have extreme bouts of vertigo while walking throughout the restaurant. Now with my Internet M.D., I didn’t expect these symptoms at all. I finally decided that this was the final straw, and I immediately scheduled an appointment with a more established M.D. than myself. When telling him about my hoarseness, as if it wasn’t apparent, I also mentioned my weakness in my right arm. He referred me to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and mentioned that I should get a brace for my arm because apparently, yelling at people to flip steaks and burgers had given me carpal tunnel syndrome. *insert comedy drum riff *

Chiari Malformation

Now! I have seen the Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist a few times, and he has decided that I have inflamed sinuses that are causing the prolonged hoarseness. He has decided that he needs to do surgery. When hearing the word surgery, I immediately say, “Hey doc, I know I’ve never told you this, but I have no feeling in my right arm” in which he replies, “Dude, I need for you to see a neurologist, like now.” *gasp *

It is important to note that Kamika and I had previously asked Dr. Carpal Tunnel for a reference to see a neurologist because we were sure something was not right. Nevertheless, we have learned that life has a mysterious way of working in puzzle-like sequences. Two weeks before I was scheduled to visit the neurologist, I’d left my position of  Psychologist/ Dad/ Pastor/ Confidante/ Teacher/ “Not Really Your Friend” at Hell’s Diner, and I was beginning a job with the local school system’s after-school program for underprivileged students. I majored in English Literature and Language in college and I’d finally gotten my foot in the door with the School District! But life had planned something totally different.

Chiari Malformation

We finally met with the neurologists and we were told that I have Chiari Malformation. This means that my cerebellum on the posterior of my brain was not in its correct position. This means that it protruded downward under the base of my skull. This deformity caused cerebral spinal fluid to leak from my brain directly down my spinal cavity. To read more about Chiari Malformation I will refer you to Web MD

We were stunned. In my mind, I immediately began to think “What? Why me?!” Never had I even thought about having brain surgery, now here we are, in less than 8 months after the best day of my life (marrying Kamika) I’m being scheduled to have a craniectomy. But in looking over and seeing the pure strength of my wife, I decided right then, “LET’S TACKLE THIS”!

Tune in next Monday for part 2 of my Chiari Malformation story.

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