When Abigail Kurdin was 4-years-old she fell from the monkey bars, bumped her head and was knocked out unconscious at recess. Her mother, Jan-Marie, had told the preschool Abby attended to take her to The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton if she ever needed emergency care. Abby came to Dayton Children’s and had a routine CT scan to check for a concussion.
After reviewing the CT-scan, a technician from medical imaging told the Kurdin’s that Abby did not have a concussion, but there was something at the base of her brain that needed to be checked.
“We were extremely worried and upset,” says Jan-Marie, “This was our 4 year old daughter, who had never had any issues that we were aware of.”
After consulting with Abby’s pediatrician, Jan-Marie and her husband Howard found out Abby had a rare malformation called Chiari 1, which had probably been present since birth.
Chiari 1 occurs when the cerebellum, or the rear part of the brain, grows down into the spinal column, puts pressure on the spinal cord and restricts the flow of spinal fluid. Researchers believe that Chiari 1 forms during early embryonic development of the brainstem and spinal cord.
“What is truly amazing,” says Jan-Marie, “is how rare it is to catch this on a CT scan and it’s impossible to see on an x-ray. So we think it was her guardian angel that pushed her off the monkey bars that day.”
When the Kurdins met with Laurence Kleiner, MD, director of neurosurgery at Dayton Children’s, it was apparent that they had done their research.
“When the Kurdins came in, they were energized and well informed,” says Dr. Kleiner. He explained to them that Abby needed surgery or she would get worse.
“Dr. Kleiner was so down to earth,” says Jan-Marie, “and he was so good with Abby. Trust me, I did my research on him too. Fortunately, we could have gone anywhere but we chose to take Abby to Dayton Children’s and Dr. Kleiner.”
The diagnosis of Chiari 1 was confirmed in April of 2002, but the family decided Abby would wait awhile to have her surgery. She had just started ballet and had her very first recital coming up.
“We decided to hold off on her surgery until after her first ballet recital in June of that year. We were unsure how she would do with the surgery and she had worked so hard during her first year of ballet. We wanted her to have a good experience with the recital,” explains Jan-Marie.
Abby was in the intensive care unit at Dayton Children’s for a few days following her surgery in the summer of 2002. She had a little trouble moving her neck as a result of some soreness after surgery. She was soon transferred to another room in the hospital and within two weeks she was back at the pool, enjoying her summer.
“I’ve had an amazing experience at Dayton Children’s,” says Abby. “I am so grateful that the staff was able to find the malformation in my brain. I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t have the surgery. I love my neurosurgeon, Dr. Kleiner. He has done so much for me.”
Abby has a positive outlook on life, finding an unusual advantage from the surgery she had when she was just 4 years old.
“It makes me feel special because the surgery gave me a scar down the back of my head. The scar gives me the perfect part line when I wear my hair in piggy-tails!” She adds with a smile.
Abby is now 12-years-old and manages to stay very busy. Besides school, she spends much of her life in the dance studio studying ballet, tap, pointe and contemporary. She is also involved in her school’s choir.
Abby wants to graduate from college one day with a major in dance and a minor in photography. She dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer and performing with many companies. She will be attending The School of American Ballet this summer in New York City. Abby is one of only 200 kids, ages 12 to 18, worldwide to be selected to attend the school.
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