September 14, 2011 is the day I refer to as “the day I got my smile back.” On that day, I underwent brain surgery to help alleviate symptoms of a Chiari Malformation, which occurs when the cerebellum (at the back part of the brain) slips from the skull and into the spinal column.
I had been suffering from the debilitating symptoms of Chiari for a couple years and each day was more difficult than the last. As I approached surgery, I had a progressive headache for nearly two years without relief, was numb from my fingertips to my nose, had balance issues, experienced dizziness and vertigo on a daily basis, struggled with visual disturbances and many other physical symptoms.
There is no cure for Chiari, but the surgery relieves the symptoms by creating more space in the skull and area surrounding the brain. It was my only hope for living a more normal life. My surgery was incredibly successful and it was ever more life-changing than I first realized because donor tissue was used in the area surrounding my brain, allowing me to be nearly symptom free. I am now a tissue recipient!
There are no words to express the tremendous gratitude that I carry as the result of my donor’s selfless gift. It has given me my life back. My children have had their mom returned to them and my smile and laughter are truly from the heart.