We met with the neurosurgeon at All Children's Hospital today. All in all, the appointment went very well. We received a diagnosis and got to ask the doctor many questions.
Drew has something called Chiari Malformation. Basically, the base of his brain (the cerebellum) extends down past where a normal person's brain would stop. Therefore, it's creating a sort of cork at the base of his skull which hinders the flow of important spinal fluids up and down the spinal column and around his brain.
Because the cerebellum controls functions like balance, the doctor was most interested in whether Drew was having any trouble with gross motor skills like walking, running, jumping, standing still.
With a new sense of gratitude in our hearts, we assured the doctor that this boy was ALL BOY and was very active and healthy. Besides the headaches, we couldn't think of any other symptoms that could have led us to suspect this condition.
(Since then we've put together a few other things that we just didn't think about right there in the office... like, his legs fall asleep all the time, much more often than other kids we know, and it causes him brief moments of intense pain).
After speaking with Drew and asking him to perform a few "tricks" for him, the doctor looked at us, grinning. "He is doing remarkably well!" He went on to say that, by looking at the MRI images, he would have been very concerned for the child the images belonged to. But in looking at our boy, live and in person, he was greatly encouraged.
One thing I am most grateful for was his conservative, sympathetic approach to the treatment options. He told us that he could do surgery. He could make the "picture (referring to MRI image) look prettier", but if the condition was having such little affect on Drew, he was reluctant to do something just to make his brain "look" more normal.
So, in about six weeks, we'll go back to the hospital for a day of tests, including a full MRI of his spine (we need to see whether spinal fluid is being inhibited from flowing properly by that "cork effect" I mentioned).
At that point, we'll talk about the surgery v. wait-and-see approach.
As we left the office, Drew said, "Well, that was fun!"
He asked if we could do something special on our way home! "Sure!" my husband and I replied, as I tossled the mop of blonde hair on his well-studied head.
I think at that point, we would have bought him a Wii.
I'm glad we held off on our offers, because he was thrilled with a dollar in the lobby's vending machine and the pack of spearmint gum it spit out.
So, that was today in a nutshell. A lot of new information, but our hearts are just abounding with grateful praise. We know it could be much worse, and we thank God for protecting our boy these last five years from more significant symptoms. We're thankful for a kind, smart doctor and for the prayers and thoughtful wishes of all our friends!