Mother-daughter duo attend U-M-hosted conference for brain anomaly that’s affected three in their family

August 6, 2015  //  FOUND IN: Announcements, Our Employees

It’s been 14 years and six surgeries since the Korcal family learned the phrase “Chiari malformation.”

The anomaly of the brain is characterized by a protrusion of a small part of the brain through the bottom of the skull and into the spinal canal.

First, eldest son Andrew Korcal was diagnosed at age 14, and then they realized it was also the reason for teen daughter Amanda’s lifelong struggle with headaches. Once her children were stable, mom Layna went to get her diagnosis, but her Chiari likely won’t require a surgery. She’s hoping her youngest son continues not to display any symptoms.

“Andrew and Amanda had different complications, but they both had really good outcomes,” Layna said.

The family from Lansing came to Ann Arbor recently to join the University of Michigan Health System’s Department of Neurosurgery at the 2015 American Syringomyelia & Chiari Alliance Project conference.

“We’re bringing together the leaders of thought in Chiari malformation and syringomyelia with patients who are eager to stay connected and informed,” said Karin Muraszko, M.D., U-M’s chair of neurosurgery, who performed Andrew’s surgery and then Amanda’s first surgery.

U-M pediatric neurosurgeon Cormac Maher, M.D., performed Amanda’s second surgery, giving her a VP shunt for the hydrocephalus, or a buildup of fluid on the brain. Dr. Maher has done a substantial amount of Chiari research and served as this year’s conference leader.

“The meeting had more than 120 participants, including other researchers from around the country as well as patients who are affected by these conditions,” Maher said.

“The one big thing we took out of the conference was how great it was to see the research being done and the hope for families and patients in the future,” said Layna Korcal.

Learn more about the Korcal family’s experience at the conference and how dealing with Chiari has inspired both Andrew and Amanda’s career paths in the blog post.