By Caitlin Seida from In The Cloud Copy
Jacob Myers was an active 15-year-old until last spring. The honor roll student, who also sang in the school choir and participated in football, basketball, baseball and track started having horrible headaches that interfered with his daily life. His parents, Josh and Brandi Myers, were baffled as their typical teenager started losing his balance, couldn’t coordinate his fine motor skills and began experiencing vision problems. A CT scan revealed the results: a chiari malformation. Facing the prospect of surgery to correct the malformation, the community of Akron sprang to action to support the Myers family, who say “there aren’t enough words to express our thanks.”
What Are Chiari Malformations?
Chiari malformations are structural defects occurring at the base of the skull, near the cerebellum or the part of the brain that controls your balance, coordination and motor skills. In a typically formed skull, the cerebellum sits just above the opening that allows the spinal cord to connect to the brain. In a skull with a chiari malformation, the cerebellum is positioned below this opening and in the spinal canal.
These malformations are classed into four different types, depending upon the severity of symptoms and how much of the brain sits in the spinal canal. Those with Type I may not experience any symptoms or may not experience an onset of symptoms until their teenage years or adulthood.
Those with Type II often experience an onset of symptoms during childhood and may need to undergo surgery to avoid life-threatening complications. Those living with Type III are typically diagnosed in infancy and may experience more severe manifestations of symptoms, including neurological disorders. Type IV is a form of cerebellar hypoplasia, with parts of the cerebellum missing or underdeveloped. Additionally, those with Type IV may have visible parts of the skull or spinal cord, further complicating matters.
Jacob’s Course of Treatment
For Jacob, the his skull opening was abnormally small. Part of his brain was bulged into the spinal cavity. This meant that the flow of cerebral fluid was reduced, giving him headaches.
Jacob’s case was further complicated by a missing C-1 vertebrae. The skull base had shaped into a hook, as opposed to a smooth opening, and was pushing on his spinal cord and into his cerebellum. Because of his malformations, Jacob’s doctors deemed surgery necessary, with his parents picking a pediatric neurosurgeon from the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa.
His fellow students couldn’t let Josh go unsupported. The students at Akron-Westfield high school first asked for prayer requests for Jacob on social media. After that, student after student contacted Jacob’s parents offering to help with everything from fundraisers to rallies. Jacob’s classmates hosted an event supported by the principal where they gave him a football signed by classmates along with a helmet.
But the support didn’t stop there. His football teammates took up a collection of money for him, as did other peers. The Spanish class at Akron-Westfield created cards to bolster his spirits. Even when it came time for Jacob to shave his head in preparation for surgery, the community rallied around him, turning the event into an after-game celebration where Jacob, his brother Devon, his father Josh, and his friend Lane Kenney all shaved their heads in solidarity.
It wasn’t just students who jumped to the aid of the Myers family, though. Community members offered help, support and prayers. “Whenever something goes on, everybody’s quick to help one another,” remarked Josh, Jacob’s father. “It makes me proud to live in Akron.”
Thankful and Hopeful
Life has not exactly been easy for the Myers family, who lost Jacob’s twin sister in 2005 at just three months old. This past year saw Brandi, Jacob’s mother, requiring two surprise surgeries. Still, the family remains hopeful for the future and thankful for the outpouring of support from their fellow Akronites.
“Seeing these young kids who put all of these things together on their own….it makes you really hopeful,” said Brandi. “This doesn’t happen everywhere. Not every community is like Akron. Not every school would have their entire class come together for a classmate like this.”
For the immediate future, it’ll take Jacob six to nine months at least to fully recover from his surgery. He’ll spend his time recovering physically, but also coming to grips with the fact that he may not play football again, though other sports are not off the table. His mother remains hopeful, however, that he’ll be able to play in a position that doesn’t compromise his spinal cord.
This is what Jacob has to say in his own words about the generous, caring actions of his classmates, teammates, friends, and neighbors:
“Thanks for all the support. I’m glad I have people in the town, friends who care about me and are willing to help me and my family through the hard times.” – Jacob Myers
Read more about it here.