HP- Chiari Malformation, Part One - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

HP- Chiari Malformation, Part One

A brain disorder never really slowed one eastern Iowa mother, until the birth of her third child.

In Health Plus, an inspiring story this Christmas Eve of triumph over potential tragedy.

At 30, Alyssa Becthold has done a lot of living.

In October 2005, back at work from having a second child, something went wrong.

"I lost vision and I went completely black for 6-7 minutes and the headaches started. I was having some neck pain and it call came on all of a sudden," she said.

Multiple tests led to a diagnosis of Chiari Malformation.

"The situation is that at the base of the brain, the portion of the brain called the cerebellum which mainly controls balance and motion actually pushes down into the top of the spinal column," Dr. Tim Ryken with the Iowa Spine & Brain Institute.

As a mom and P.R. professional, Alyssa learned to manage symptoms like vision loss and impaired arm function at home and work.

Then she had a third child.

"Age 29 was the most chaotic year of my life.  I had just one thing after another.  I found out, unexpectedly, I was pregnant with my third child.  It was a really hard delivery and I knew probably within 1 or 2 weeks after my son was born, I started going downhill really fast," she said.

Her neurosurgeon at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo was trained in Iowa City by internationally-known experts in Chiari Malformation.

This summer, he and Alyssa decided to go ahead with surgery to open the base of her skull.

"We do that through a technique of taking off the bone in the back and basically allowing the brain and the brain stem to have more room to function," said Dr. Ryken.

It worked, and despite some returning symptoms, Alyssa is happily back to both her full-time jobs. 

Tara Thomas


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