Chiari Malformation Patient to Shave Her Head to Say “Thank You” to Hospital

By Jodee Redmond from In The Cloud Copy

Frankie Hewitson spent more than her fair share of time in the hospital during her childhood. The 27-year-old was diagnosed with three health conditions at the age of 10: scoliosis, Chiari malformation, and syringomyelia. She had to undergo five brain and spinal surgical procedures at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital as a result.

To say, “Thank you,” for the excellent care and support she and her family received, Ms. Hewitson will have her hair shaved off. It’s all for a good cause, since the lost locks mean she’ll be raising money for charity.


Scoliosis is a condition that results in a sideways curve of the spine. In most instances, it occurs during the growth spurt that is a normal part of the onset of puberty. Approximately three percent of adolescents develop scoliosis.

In most instances, scoliosis is mild and no treatment is required. Some children need to wear a brace to stop the curve from worsening and in severe cases surgery is sometimes necessary to correct the curve in the patient’s spine.

Chiari Malformation

A Chiari malformation occurs when brain tissue extends into a patient’s spinal column. It occurs when the skull is either misshapen or abnormally small and presses on the brain tissue, forcing it downward. This condition is not common. However, modern diagnostic imaging has led to more frequent diagnoses by doctors.

In many instances, a Chiari malformation doesn’t result in any symptoms or require treatment. The condition may only be discovered when a patient undergoes tests for another condition. More severe cases are diagnosed when the patient experiences headaches after sneezing, coughing, or straining. They may also experience symptoms like neck pain, numbness in the hands and feet, dizziness, and hoarseness. Surgery may be required to relieve the pressure on the spinal column in patients with a Chiari malformation.


Syringomyelia refers to a fluid-filled cyst in the spinal cord. With time, the cyst can become enlarged and as it does, it damages the spinal cord, resulting in pain, stiffness, and weakness. Other symptoms can include muscle weakness, loss of sensitivity to temperature and pain, headaches, stiffness in the back and extremities, and pain in the neck, arms, and back.

Although syringomyelia can have several causes, in the majority of patients, it’s seen in conjunction with a Chiari malformation. Other causes can include spinal cord injuries, tumors, and inflammation of the spinal cord. In some cases, no cause can be identified.

Money Raised Will Support Hospital Children’s Charity

Ms. Hewitson’s coworkers at the electrical company AO, located in Bolton, were supportive. In conjunction with the employer’s charitable foundation, Smile, she has raised over £3,109 (US $4,043.67 as of February 2020).

When she was younger, Ms. Hewitson had to have parts of her head shaved off for various operations. She also lost a lot of hair due to stress, which she found very difficult to deal with at the time. It occurred to her that shaving off all of her hair was a good way to raise awareness for these disorders and to encourage others to donate to the hospital.

Check out the original story here.


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