It’s been 14 years and six surgeries since the Korcal family learned the phrase “Chiari malformation.”
The anomaly of the brain is characterized by a protrusion of a small part of the brain through the bottom of the skull and into the spinal canal.
First, eldest son Andrew Korcal was diagnosed at age 14, and then they realized it was also the reason for teen daughter Amanda’s lifelong struggle with headaches. Once her children were stable, mom Layna went to get her diagnosis, but her Chiari likely won’t require a surgery. She’s hoping her youngest son continues not to display any symptoms.
“Andrew and Amanda had different complications, but they both had really good outcomes,” Layna said.
My husband, Mike, and I were so looking forward to our baby’s 19-week ultrasound so we could find out the gender. That moment didn’t actually turn out as we had envisioned. In addition to finding out that we were having a precious baby boy, we also learned that he had spina bifida, meaning that part of his spinal cord was exposed outside of his body. This came as quite a shock. While I had only heard of spina bifida, my husband is a chiropractor and, with his educational background, knew all about it. For me, however, ignorance was bliss that day.
After the ultrasound and finding out about his diagnosis, we spent the day meeting with various experts from the Fetal Diagnosis & Treatment Center at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, including a genetic counselor and several members of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine team. We learned about spina bifida and the treatment options available. They told us about a relatively new surgical procedure that could treat our son before he was born. Although not a complete cure, the surgeons would repair the spinal canal and cover it with skin to prevent further trauma. Research demonstrates better outcomes with this approach compared to standard surgery after birth. While there were risks for both me and my unborn son, which the team carefully explained to us – we did not hesitate to say yes in light of the potential to improve his outcome.
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