By WARREN DILLAWAY - email@example.com
A big smile lives on the face of Mary Beckwith as her head no longer hurts and her ears no longer ring.
“I haven’t felt good all my life,” said the 26-year-old who had balance problems, head aches and other issues that she adjusted to on a day-to-day basis.
The symptoms accelerated in August and Beckwith ended up on an extensive diagnostic search to see what her problem might be. “I got really sick back in August and it wasn’t the normal sickness. My body wouldn’t function,” Beckwith said.
After a pulled muscle and vertigo were ruled out Beckwith was referred to a specialist by her family doctor.
“I was diagnosed with Chairi Malformation back in August,” Beckwith said.
“The Chiari I Malformation is a congenital malformation in which the back compartment of the skull is formed too small and results in crowding of neurological tissues,” Beckwith said.
“The lower part of the cerebellum, called the cerebellar donsils, hangs down through the opening at the bottom of the skull and causes blockage of spinal fluid to the spinal canal. This crowding and blockage often brings on neurological symptoms including headache, dizziness, blurred vision,” she said.
Beckwith is a 2002 graduate of Jefferson High School and a 2007 graduate of the University of Toledo. She is on track to receive her masters degree from Youngstown State University in August.
She said a Magnetic Resonance Imaging was able to diagnose the disease and the surgeon decided it would be important to operate on her brain and spinal column as soon as possible.
“My surgeon believes I had these symptoms all my life,” Beckwith said.
On Jan. 20 Beckwith had brain surgery, which is the only way to alleviate the symptoms in severe cases. She said the symptoms may come back or they may not.
“I am very thankful for the amazing doctors I had at the Cleveland Clinic and for the research that has been done to date about this disorder,” Beckwith said.
Beckwith is a 12th grade government teacher at the Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School and the majorette advisor for the Jefferson High School band. She is also a member of the Jefferson Rotary Club.
During the Edgewood Band-O-Rama Beckwith was exiting the field with the band and fell in the middle of the field.
“I was very private. I didn’t want to tell anyone,” she said.
Her parents rescued her from the field and by late November the surgery had been scheduled. After the brain surgery her attitude changed.
“I have a completely different outlook. I want to tell everybody...It effects everything. I feel like I want to be a positive force,” Beckwith said. She said she has already met three people in Jefferson who have the condition.
Beckwith said she is very grateful to have her condition diagnosed and is putting her new found love of running into action to help others.
“As part of my recovery I am planning on running the Rite-Aid Cleveland Half Marathon. It is hard, even for my doctor, to believe that I am going to take on the 13.1 mile journey just 16 short weeks after brain surgery. I am dedicating these 13.1 miles to the Chiara Malformation and Syringomyelia Foundation as my thank-you,” she said.
Beckwith put her foot on the accelerator immediately upon returning home from a five day hospital stay. She was a bit too aggressive and had a two day return to the hospital.
She went back to work part time after three and a half weeks and was working full time in five weeks. “I wanted my kids (students) to see they can overcome,” Beckwith said.
John Whipple, principal of ACJVS, praised her work ethic.
“I know there were a lot of days when it was very difficult for her. it really showered her commitment to her students,” he said of her return to work.
Beckwith is the daughter of Roger and Monica Beckwith. She has two sisters Donna Beckwith-Bair and Joanne Beckwith.
Anyone interested may donate to a research fund online at www.csfino.org and place a 13.1 thank you in the comment box. Checks may also be made payable to CSF and mailed to 46 E. Satin St., Jefferson.